By Paul Ndiho
October 6, 2011
Uganda’s coffee earnings have risen 63 percent in the last year, with harvests boosted by good weather. The East African nation, which cultivates primarily Robusta coffee, is one of Africa’s leading exporters of coffee and its earnings are a key revenue source.
Uganda’s Coffee Development Authority, UCDA, reports the country earned over 400 million dollars between October 2010 and August of this year, nearly doubling earnings from the same period of 2009.
The government-run agency says the surge in earnings is due to good weather and the rise in coffee prices on global market.
Over 300 thousand bags of coffee were shipped from Uganda in August, bringing total bean exports this season to close to 3 million bags.
David Barry is with Kyagalanyi coffee exporters.
“I think the weather conditions have been generally favorable but quite interestingly they have prompted a fly crop (secondary crop) in certain growing areas we had not factored in our numbers, the prices have indeed been very good on the world market, coffee prices for both Arabica and Robusta have increased tremendously, so the income for the Ugandan farmer has in real terms doubled over the last twelve to eighteen months”.
Southern Uganda accounts for nearly half of the country’s total coffee production.
Next year, Uganda will distribute coffee to farmers who may want to experiment with new varieties that can withstand drought.
Angelo Mukasa, is with the Kyagalanyi coffee research centre in central Uganda. He says the centre provides assistance to Uganda’s coffee farmers, who are now harvesting this year’s crop:
” We have at least three thousand registered farmers. We extend to them good agricultural practices and of course the good husbandry for coffee and also for post harvest handling the quality is good enough, so that ensures that we get a better market for our produce,”
Charles Mubiru is a coffee farmer in the Kayunga district. He says small Ugandan coffee farmers are still struggling:
“Coffee farming has improved greatly and the returns are good. Except that I think there is capacity to produce more, the problem is the taxes on farm inputs. We have pests that destroy our coffee crops, but there are no pesticides to treat our crops. We plead with the government to reduce taxes on farm inputs, so many people would love to grow coffee.”
Two years ago, Uganda launched the first coffee packaging factory in Africa which processes the beans for export. Uganda’s long time leader General Museveni notes that the processing plant brings more money to farmers.
The same kilograms from which you are getting one dollar as beans, once it is processed this way — roasting and grinding — then the price of the same coffee goes up from one dollar to fifteen dollars. That is why I have been telling my European friends that we are the donors; we are the ones donating to you,”
However, some Ugandan farmers worry that they will remain at the mercy of the middle-men.
“We are hoping that they would be decent enough to share the additional profits with us, because if they come here they will see the high quality of coffee we have, if we get the benefits of the improved price, it will motivate us to improve the quality of our coffee so that they (roasters) fetch better profits in the market,”
Analysts say Uganda is among the top largest coffee producers in the world and could become be the largest producer in East Africa.