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Tips On Maximising Coffee Yields

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Prossy Nandudu

Much as coffee is Uganda’s leading export earner, having earned the country $85.6m in January this year, a number of farmers, about two million, still don’t know how to earn more from their coffee plantations.

Reasons advanced by some experts in the coffee sector include reluctance by farmers to seek knowledge and skills on how to grow coffee profitably, and limited financial muscle to invest in for example improved coffee seedlings, fertilisers and other inputs needed by coffee.

Those are some of the observations that were made by coffee experts while training farmers on how to increase coffee yields during the 2024 Harvest Money Expo.

The expo, themed Farming as a Business, was organised by Vision Group and supported by various stakeholders, including the Netherlands Embassy, at Kololo Independence grounds.

So, how can farmers maximise coffee yields?

To carry out farming as a business, a special session on how to maximise coffee yields was organised. One of the tips that was given to farmers by Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE), was for farmers to first identify the market for their coffee, before embarking on production.

The advantages of knowing the market helps the farmer to know the size of coffee beans required, specific colour after roasting (some prefer medium others prefer dark roasted beans), how the final ground coffee should be for those who export ground coffee (some consumers prefer ground fine coffee, while others prefer not fi ne ground coffee).

If the coffee is for export, conditions for that particular export market, which could be related to the environment in which the coffee is farmed or processed, or the involvement of women and youth in the production of that coffee, among others.

Nkandu adds that having understood the market, the farmer will then seek knowledge from existing marketing structures, sector players and researchers, for example in identifying the right coffee seedlings that give a particular bean size and aroma.

Also, how to nourish the soil, taking into consideration the kind of fertilisers or agro-chemicals to be applied on the coffee, among others.

He, however, added that this can be achieved if farmers paid more attention to their coffee plantations through what he termed as the farmer ownership model.

“Once a farmer takes up ownership of the coffee, they tend to pay more attention to it, there will be monitoring the plantations effectively to meet the demands of the identified market,” Nkandu said.

He added when farmers take up ownership, they are concerned about what other farmers are doing to coffee, can influence policy as coffee farmers and advocate for things, such as value addition tools to further improve the quality of the final product.

Follow the trends

According to Nkandu, farmers should consider following the trends in the market to be sure of where to sell the harvest.

For example, research conducted by the International Coffee Organisation shows the agribusiness segment in Africa will command $1 trillion by 2030. To tap into this market calls for higher yields.

Affordable and suitable technologies

Farmers should consider the use of appropriate technologies throughout the value chain.

These include irrigation facilities, machinery for tilling the land, harvesting technologies, processing and storage, until the market stage.

According to Nkandu, this is important because some markets are sensitive to what kind of machines are used for processing coffee.

Because of an increase in effects of climate change, like greenhouse gas emissions, some buyers of coffee now want coffee processed using solar or green energy, he added.

Work with scientists, researchers

Maximising yields is not only the function of a farmer, but rather a combination of efforts from scientists, farmers and consumers or the market.

Nkandu says growing coffee is a science. For example, the soil has to be tested before applying the missing nutrients.

There are coffee varieties for different coffee growing areas across the country, spacing of coffee, when it comes to the management of pests and diseases, the changing weather patterns, among others so this calls for a scientific approach, among other factors.

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