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More yields for Uganda coffee producers

by Grace Kisembo

Amid declining prices on the international market, Uganda’s coffee industry seems to be recovering from low export volumes.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority’s (UCDA) latest data shows that coffee export volumes increased by 18% to 4.2million in the 2016/17 season that end on September 30 compared with the previous year.

The development has been attributed to increased yield from the newly planted crops, as well as good flowering and bean development of the crop in central and eastern region.

This is the first time that the country registered the highest coffee export volumes since 1996 when it recorded 4.15million bags.

Consequently, the crop’s export earnings increased from US$351million in the 2015/16 season to US$490million last season, representing 40% growth.

UCDA has since 2012 distributed nearly 317,000 coffee seedlings to farmers across the 98 districts that grow the crop, though low productivity, unpredictable weather conditions, inadequate agricultural extension officers, and low use of fertilizer remains a big hindrance to productivity.

The authority said the registration of coffee farmers will be rolled out throughout the country as plans are also underway to review the outdated UCDA statute 1991 to provide a conducive environment for regulating on farm production in addition to off-farm production.

So far, the draft Coffee Bill 2017 is complete and awaits parliament debate and cabinet approval.

This new development comes two months after the government pushed back a target of boosting annual production fivefold by a decade saying it has taken longer than thought to introduce initiatives needed to raise production.

According to Christopher Kibazanga, the Minister of State for Agriculture, the country now expects to reach a target of 20 million bags a year by 2030 instead of 2020.

“We discovered that 2020 is too close, but the dream is on to ultimately achieve 20 million bags,” he said in an interview.

Uganda exports most of its coffee to the European Union, Sudan, USA, and India, with Robusta coffee accounting for 85% of the total exports.

Latest data from the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) shows that coffee prices have been on the downward trend since August this year stemming from high supply on the international market.

Robusta coffee was the most hit with a 5.1% decline in prices as at the end of last month.

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