OP-ED: I applaud The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) for their tremendous achievements, especially the significant increase in quantities of green coffee beans exported. However, I request that the new coffee act be revised.
This heinous act subjects all coffee farmers to mandatory non-chargeable registration with UCDA to be issued with an identification number. The registration details shall include land size, number of trees, coffee buyers and sellers yet for centuries many families have successfully grown coffee with neither registration nor licenses. The penalties levied if one does not comply are preposterous!
How does disclosure of a farmer’s acreage or number of coffee plants add to the quality and quantity of coffee produced and exported? To assume that registration of one’s acreage and the number of trees increases both coffee quality and export quantity is ridiculous. Besides, people are not keen to reveal their personal information.
The requirements in this new act turn away coffee stakeholders who do not want to be pseudo civil servants with meagre pay. Such stakeholders prefer to be self-established coffee farmers. UCDA will gain absolute control over everyone’s farm.
Needless to say, all things that the act seeks to address are already catered for with less restrictive means. For example, traders, cafes, roasters, and hullers pay for licenses to operate legally.
I urge the government to emulate model coffee-growing nations to improve the current establishments. Let us solve the more urgent issues in the industry instead of implementing something that limits more than it enhances the industry.
If the President of Uganda desires that we accelerate coffee production to twenty million bags of sixty kilograms by 2025, as per his directive 2015, we need to have more inclusive initiatives that promote youth participation in the different stages of the coffee value chain.
The President ably attracted goodwill from McKinsey & Co. Ltd, a renowned consulting firm to support the transformational process of developing the road map through a rapid delivery coffee lab in March 2017.
With this, nine key transformative initiatives that focused on putting Uganda on the path to achieving its target of twenty million bags of sixty kilograms of coffee production per year by 2025 were suggested.
The key initiatives were dependent on major pillars which include demand, value addition, and production among others. One of the specific objectives was to strengthen farmer organizations and producer cooperatives which were to commercialise smallholder farmers and ensure broader access to agricultural extension services, inputs, financial support, and aggregation.
It is not too late to revise this new coffee act to restore the liberty of the smallholder farmer and incentivize prospective coffee value chain players, especially the youth. Save of our golden coffee sector.
The Writer is a member of the National Christian Students Association