By Dr Emmanuel Ilyamulemye
It is well known that coffee is not only Uganda`s sustainable leading export earner, but it is also the second most traded product in the world after Oil.
Uganda, maintained her standing as the leading exporter of coffee and the second highest producer of coffee after Ethiopia. During the last Financial Year, exports for 12 months (FY2021/22) totaled 6.26 million 60kg bags worth US$ 862.28 million compared to 6.08 million bags worth US$ 559.16 million the previous year (FY 2020/21). This represents an increase of 3% and 54% in both quantity and value respectively.
However, June coffee exports fell by 14% to 530,365 60-kilo bags of coffee valued at US$ 83.79 million. This comprised 444,197 bags of Robusta valued at US$ 60.98 million and 86,168 bags of Arabica valued at US$ 22.82. This was a decrease of 14% in quantity but an increase of 43% in value compared to the same month last year. The decrease in quantity is attributed to a dry spell that has affected many coffee- growing regions in the country. As a result, our 6.5m bags target was not met. However, the move to increase annual production is on and will be achieved in the long run.
Thanks goes to the coffee farmers and value chain actors who have remained resilient despite the dry conditions we experienced in the country. The dry spell has impacted negatively on the production and productivity of the sector.
The erratic weather patterns call for increased investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. Farmers should practice good farming methods, plant shade trees, and mulch coffee gardens to offset the impact of climate change. Government is also working to support farmers to engage in irrigation.
New Farmers Emerge
Coffee has been traditionally largely produced by small holder farmers across the coffee growing regions. These include the Central, East, West especially Rwenzori, Kigezi, Bushenyi, Elgon, West Nile and recently-Acholi. In the last few years however, we have witnessed fairly richer investors coming to the coffee sector. For example, many of the corporates who are now joining farming are picking coffee as their annual coffee cow. In the cattle corridor where farmers used to proudly keep cattle, many of them are diversifying into coffee too. These elite investors are not only adding more value to the sector, but also increasing commercialization of the sector. This is certainly good for the economy.
Government has played a big part in encouraging these people to investor in this sector. Many of them got free seedlings from UCDA, but others bought the seedlings. There is hope that this investment will certainly increase the run to our larger target of exporting at least 25million bags in the next few years.
IACO Meeting In Uganda
In May 2022, coffee-producing countries in Africa witnessed a historic moment when the Inter-African Coffee Organisation (IACO) members signed the Nairobi Declaration to have coffee anchored as a strategic commodity under the African Union in harmony with AU’s Agenda 2063.
The Nairobi Declaration ushers in a new era with coffee earmarked as a priority commodity for Africa’s economic revolution. The Nairobi Declaration will support coffee-producing countries such as Uganda to address several challenges the sector has grappled with such as market access, technology, value addition, and research.
Uganda is honoured to be the hosts of the second G25 African Coffee Summit which will be held in Kampala in 2023. This is a great opportunity for Uganda to showcase the coffee sub sector successes.
UCDA embarked on a fertiliser distribution and coffee rehabilitation programme across the country. The activities that will go on in 2023 include stumping of old trees. As a background, most farmers have been growing coffee without significant application of fertilizers. Of course the coffee produces, but not as much as it can. Giving out fertilizers is intended to encourage farmers to make them part of their annual farm inputs. It is evident that trees that are fertilized increase their yields by three times. Farmers are encouraged to use organic fertilizers to nourish their farms. A tree requires at least 500grams each year. It is also evident that the coffee yield per tree has increased from 0.31kgs in 2014 to 0.65kgs in 2021 for Arabica and from 0.55kgs to 0.8kgs for Robusta. The coffee bean size has also increased by 66.7% for Robusta and 63.8% for Arabica.
We thank the farmers who heeded our call and stumped the old and unproductive coffee trees. Stumping increases the amount of coffee produced by a tree by three times. If farmers run coffee as a business they will certainly enjoy the benefits of increased production and productivity on their farms. In 2023, we appeal to farmers with old trees to accept and stamp them. We have had issues of culture and tradition affecting this very important coffee practice. They reason that they cannot cut down branches off a tree that was planted by their grandparents. However, the benefits are far higher in the long run.
Value Addition Starts On Farm
Whereas the common belief is that value addition is roasting and packaging coffee, the fact is that the most important value addition starts right from planting, maintaining and harvesting of the coffee. A larger coffee bean size is not got during harvesting. It is prepared by the activities done before the coffee flowers. Farmers must stump, use fertilizers to achieve this. For example, if a farmer needs to earn more per kilogram, he has to pulp the coffee into parchment (Kase). Our task now is to make sure that all coffee regions have got mills to help farmers pulp. The number of roasters in the country is going up and this will increase in 2023. Overall, coffee remains at the pinnacle of Uganda`s economy and this will continue through 2023. For the last year, price of kiboko averaged sh2,600 per kilogram, Robusta kase averaged sh6,450 while Arabica kase averaged sh10,500.Prices are expected to remain the same in 2023.
The Writer is Managing Director Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA)