KAMPALA, UGANDA: Coffee farmers now have a new opportunity to increase production and benefit across the value chain, thanks to a new project fronted by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).
The project dubbed fair-for-all, improving coffee value chains in Uganda seeks to improve all activities that bring coffee from production to the cup, advocate for fair prices, better access to finance, public investment in processing and value addition.
SEATIN Executive Director Jane Nalunga said that under the arrangement, value chain actors will have a common voice on the laws and policies pertaining to coffee production, sale and export. She says that the project will extend support to small and medium-scale farmers in the districts of Mubende and Mbale, over the next five years before extending to other regions.
“We are looking at enhancing the capacity of the value chain actors to be part of the law-making processes so that the policies we have in place help the value chain actors. We also want to ensure that women also benefit from the coffee value chain,” she said.
Nalunga said that the project also targets providers of inputs like seedlings and fertilizers, the coffee buyers, the manufacturers who process the coffee and all actors at all levels.
“If all these policies are put right, all Ugandans will be happy and live a life of dignity where citizens can afford the basic requirements to enjoy their rights,” said Naluga, observing the majority of the people in Uganda do not take coffee yet the first consumer market should be Ugandans.
Kellen Besigye, Vice Chairperson for Mubende district is optimistic that the project will improve household incomes. Similarly, Mary Jessica Nankabirwa, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Mubende said that the project is good because it fills an advocacy gap that exists in coffee growing and production.
Uganda’s economy largely depends on commodities with the exports dominated by traditional cash crops such as coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco, but coffee is the principal export crop. Statistics show that in 2019, coffee was the country’s second top export earner after Gold, fetching USD 438.5 million of 11 percent of the export revenue.
According to SEATINI reports, coffee is largely exported as unprocessed, low value-added coffee beans in bags, with over 95 percent of the total annual coffee production exported as raw unprocessed green beans, totalling 5.1 million coffee bags exports in 2019.
Efforts by Uganda to export processed coffee have faced difficulties primarily on account of barriers in the developed countries. In recent times, the Ugandan government has sought to promote large scale foreign-owned coffee plantations through various incentive schemes so as to reach the set target of production of 20 million coffee bags by 2025, as per the presidential directive.
This process has prioritized the interest of foreign investors compared to the dominant small and medium scale indigenous coffee producers and local landowners.