By Prossy Nandudu
The National Coffee Research Institute has identified different coffee varieties for different parts of the country.
The move according to the Director of the institute, Dr Godfrey Arinaitwe, is to increase the production of coffee in areas where it hasn’t been grown.
Arinaitwe said this will support the government’s target through the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to export more coffee as per the government’s target of exporting 20 million bags per year by 2030.
Some of the methods being used to increase the productivity of not-so-productive varieties, that are on demand include the following;
Grafting coffee for the Northern and Mid-North region
To start with, he said the research team has considered old varieties of coffee that were preferred by the farmers, but were susceptible to the coffee wilt disease.
Such varieties are being grafted and joined onto those that are resistant to the coffee wilt disease.
“Because coffee wilt disease is soil born, through this method, the lower part of the stem that is resistant to the wilt goes into the soil first and this will lead to more resistant varieties,” explained Arinaitwe.
He adds that the varieties that are resistant to the wilt have been identified from a wild coffee from the forest called Liberica, and has a strong root system, an extensive root network that can go much deeper and draw water and nutrients for the plant to survive during the dry season.
“These have been tested in dry and semi-dry areas before being given to farmers in Acholi and Abim which is part of Karamoja because they are usually affected by prolonged droughts,” he said.
New Arabica coffee varieties for highland farmers
For Arabic, researchers have worked on five coffee varieties that will be released in a year.
According to research, these are short trees but yield highly compared to the existing coffee varieties like SL14 and SL28.
Current varieties yield about 1 to 1.5 kgs per tree, while the new varieties will give between 2 to 2.5 kgs of coffee per tree.
Apart from yield, the new varieties are resistant to most diseases that attack Arabic coffee.
The two major diseases that attack Arabica coffee include coffee Leaf thrust and the Coffee Berry Disease.
Besides, the new varieties are short and have a conical canopy that allows women, the elderly and children to easily harvest without climbing stools.
Target areas for new Arabic coffees
He explained that targeted areas for these varieties include; Elgon region, Zeu (Zombo in West Nile), Kasese-Rwenzori highlands, Kisoro Kabale-Rukungiri highlands and part of South Western Uganda in Buhweju and Mitooma.
Such initiatives according to researchers will increase total production and export.
Why Arabica coffee farming hasn’t been intensive
Researchers explained that the quality of Arabica coffee is good, but the weight of the cherries is low compared to Robusta coffee.
Also, buyers or aggregators have been cheating farmers by offering the same price as that for Robusta coffee, with claims that Arabic has no market.
“Now with increased production, UCDA will have to do a lot of promotion to create awareness for Arabica,” Arinaitwe added.
The latest report from UCDA shows that Uganda exported 6.5million bags, 20% of which were Arabica.
That is why Uganda’s strategy, for now, is to double the Arabica coffee production to export 40% Arabica coffee and 60% Robusta coffee.
This will fetch more income for the country and farmers.