By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi
The celebrated aroma of Uganda’s coffee that has made Uganda rank 3rd after Ethiopia and Kenya with a score of 84.88, 84.31 and 84.05 respectively according to the professional coffee testers survey carried out in 2020 in the top 16 coffee growing countries in the world, is the favourable climate, fertile soils and good agronomical practices.
However, in essence, a delicious cup of coffee starts with a good seed.
The quality of beans which is affected by the care given to the coffee tree in the garden followed by post-harvest handling and processing methods all have to add up to produce a world-class coffee.
But whether quality or quantity, Uganda is in steady progress with a recent report by the International Coffee Organization on Global Coffee Exports, featuring Uganda as number eight among the top ten producers and exporters of coffee.
On quality, Uganda’s Arabica coffee grown in Kapchorwa in Eastern Uganda came top according to the international coffee testers with an 86.83 per cent score out of Uganda’s coffees that were tested.
Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa, producing approximately 384,000 metric tons annually and currently sells most of its coffee to Europe, the United States and Japan.
Earlier in 2017, the government of Uganda announced plans to step up its coffee production in the coming years by launching a roadmap that looks at ensuring that Uganda cements its position as a major supplier of high-quality beans to the world market.
Uganda produces over 228,000 metric tons annually with forecasts to increase production to 20 million 60kg bags of exportable coffee by 2025 under the Coffee Road Map boosted by massive sensitization, distribution of more organic fertilizers and more coffee seedlings to expand acreage for coffee plantations.
The continuous improvement in both the quality and quantity of Uganda’s coffee is awed to the massive sensitization of coffee farmers by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and efforts by the Government in promoting the Agriculture sector through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
In October 2020, Uganda’s coffee exports totalled 5,409,054 bags worth $513.99m compared to 4,465,534 bags worth $435.81m, the previous year representing a 20 and 18 per cent increase in both quantity and value respectively.
The picture Uganda’s coffee has on the global market only means more opportunities for the Ugandan Robusta coffee industry growers and the entire supply chain in the context of the global coffee crisis.
This presents a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of development strategies through which Uganda might promote its largest export commodity by increasing Robusta coffee production and quality with the hope to have Uganda’s Robusta top on the world list of best coffees.
In order for Uganda to retain the number three position, effort and emphasis have to be placed on quality.
According to the UCDA Quality Services Directorate, working with farmers, traders, roasters, baristas and others in the coffee value chain to train on harvesting and handling procedures which are a great contributor to the test and aroma coffee produces.
Additionally, UCDA collaborates with the Agriculture Police to ensure conformity to the coffee regulations.
“Licensing is a key quality control measure and everyone in the entire coffee value chain except farmers requires one.
Starting from storekeepers, primary processors and even roasters,” UCDA says.
The Authorities Technical extension team of agricultural Engineers enforce the organization’s mandate to license and regulate all primary coffee processors in the country and under the Management of the Development Directorate, the technical team; ensures the machines are calibrated to the right settings, beans are not broken during hulling Kiboko, the moisture standards of coffee before processing and where possible encourage farmers to take coffee for wet processing at factories which are licensed by UCDA instead of using hand pulpers.
The Coffee Roadmap has set a target of producing 20 million bags by 2025. As coffee production rises, positioning Uganda’s coffee as one of the best quality coffees in the world is critical to ensuring that Uganda’s coffee is recognised on the international market for its high quality.
This will help the country and coffee farmers earn a premium from coffee.
In February, last year, UCDA launched ‘The Best of the Pearl competition’ as one of the strategies to help promote and brand Uganda’s coffee globally.
The competitions will help to identify and reward the very best coffees from Uganda while profiling them on the international stage.