By Umar Nsubuga
Selection of good quality planting material begins with selecting the coffee species suitable for the local climate.
Arabica coffee does well at higher altitudes while robusta coffee grows better in hotter and humid areas, especially at lower altitudes.
However, the prevalence of the berry borer and coffee rust are important indicators as to whether the coffee variety is suited to the site conditions.
To the species, varieties which are resistant to common diseases like Coffee Wilt Disease, Coffee Berry Disease or Coffee Leaf Rust should be selected.
Improved varieties can be obtained through local extension offices or coffee research stations.
How to propagate the seeds
Most of the Ugandan coffee is commonly propagated by seeds.
Swizen Wamala, a famous coffee farmer in Kagadi district says such coffee takes longer to grow than vegetatively propagated coffee, which is called cloning.
According to Wamala, vegetative propagation has the advantage that coffee will carry all the qualities of the parent plant. Cuttings are ideally obtained from selected mother gardens of desired varieties.
He says coffee plants raised from clonal cuttings bear fruits 24-36 months after transporting, whereas plants grown from seeds bear fruits after 48 months.
With post-harvest losses, the quality depends a lot on how well it has been picked, processed, dried, packed and stored.
To minimise contamination, until safe storage, it is, therefore, important to carefully harvest and safely handle the harvested coffee through primary processing activities.
Ponsiano Nyombi, another coffee farmer of Kamuzinda village in Masaka district says the quality depends on how and when picking is done from the field.
Many farmers mix red ripe berries with shrivelled, black, discoloured and defective beans that break easily, are of inferior quality, small in size and are usually eliminated as part of the husks during milling, resulting in qualitative and quantitative post-harvest losses. In addition, the immature beans give a bitter taste to the coffee.
-Carefully pick only mature red beans and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen further. Always pick, do not strip.
-Spread the coffee beans on a tarpaulin or soft sheet to dry, not directly on the ground. The sheets will ease the collection of all the beans and minimise the contamination of the beans.
-If they drop on the bare ground, the beans should be collected carefully.
-Remove all inferior or green bean leaves, twigs and foreign matter from the harvested beans.
-Pick regularly, every two weeks, to get good yields and better quality.