Agriculture Committee wants Uganda Coffee Authority retained

Staff from UCDA submiiting their views before MPs on the agriculture committee at Parliament House on Monday, 15 April 2024 (Photo/parliament)

Kampala, (UG):- The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has expressed concern that dissolving Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) as proposed in the Government rationalisation policy, will significantly affect the country’s leading agricultural export earner.

Chaired by Hon. Janet Okori-Moe, the committee justified the need to retain UCDA, citing government’s commitment to the authority made in 2017 to boost coffee production from 3.5 million bags to 20 million bags by 2030.

Okorie-Moe observed that the reasons for dissolving the authority are largely from the government side, not UCDA.

“Some reasons for rationalising UCDA are faults emanating from the government, not the authority. To say that coffee is no longer bringing money and that each coffee tree yields one and a half kilogrammes is not your fault, some of the trees are 50 years old, especially in Bukedi and Elgon. It is the government’s responsibility to plan and supply farmers with new coffee seedlings,” said Okori-Moe.

Okori-Moe reiterated a recent move by the African Union in declaring coffee as the strategic crop of Africa, noting that it is not the time for the government to slow down on the efforts to boost coffee production.

She was speaking during the committee’s meeting with UCDA officials led by the Board Secretary and Director for Legal Affairs, Eunice Kabibi, on Monday, 15 April 2024, in which the committee considered the National Coffee (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

MPs questioned the motive behind rationalising an entity that has generated Shs 202.35 billion over the past five years.

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“When I compare what the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries submitted to us, saying that coffee is not bringing in money, and what UCDA has submitted, it does not make sense. They want to shut down an entity which is financing government,” said Hon. Linda Auma (Independent, Lira District Woman MP).

The committee learned of ongoing projects under UCDA worth Shs518.9 billion, that the agriculture ministry will have to carry on once the authority is dissolved, with the passing of the Bill.

To UCDA the projects are destined to fail since they require timely inspection with adequate manpower.

“Delays in any of the processes will lead to loss of foreign exchange earnings, reputation, and litigation-related costs,” said Kabibi adding that the authority is facing numerous court claims due to delays in payments to coffee nursery farmers totaling Shs1.9 billion.

The UCDA officials were concerned that there were no signs that staff would be reintegrated into the ministry.

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As a result, Kabibi presented the cost of dissolving the authority through termination benefits at Shs16.32 billion, divergent from Shs 3.40 billion in the Ministry’s certificate of financial implication.

“We fail to understand their justifications on costs and the savings they plan to make – they are saying that coffee is no longer profitable yet in the 2022/2023 financial year, UCDA contributed Shs25.8 billion to the Consolidated Fund. We are financing government to finance its other priorities,” said Alfred Okwir, the farmer’s representative at UCDA.

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