The Katikkiro, Charles Peter Mayiga, sat down with Sunday Vision’s Dickson Kulumba to discuss the kingdom’s coffee growing promotion project.
Q: You launched a campaign to grow more coffee. What
is the response?
A: The most outstanding success is that the public has embraced the campaign. Over 25,000 acres of coffee have been planted. We gave out 10 million seedlings in the first phase of the campaign, which translates into 24,000 acres, considering that an acre of coffee takes 450 seedlings, one uses the measurements of 10×10 feet.
Note that not everybody got seedlings from us. People planted coffee on their own because of the campaign. We are sure of about 25,000 acres, which we caused to be planted. We gave out the seedlings, but people have been planting coffee on their own. That is a success.
The Emmwanyi Terimba campaign is not only about coffee. It includes growing of matooke, cassava, maize and animal husbandry. We encourage mixed farming because it helps the soil to regain fertility in case the land has been cultivated for a long time.
In places I have visited, there are impressive banana plantations and other crops besides coffee. They rear cattle, pigs, goats and poultry. On October 24, this year, I launched the drink coffee campaign. Given our background as a former British protectorate, we are known for drinking tea because the British have a tradition of drinking tea, which they also got from Indians.
Once we adopt the consumption of coffee as the major beverage, we shall be sure of a ready market for farmers, producers and processors. You know the best quality coffee comes from the best quality beans of coffee.
Of course, the quality of coffee beans determines what the farmer will get. When you consume what you produce, you become your own market and I give an example of matooke. Because we eat matooke in this country, it is not a problem finding market for it.
When you consume what you produce, you exclude a number of external interferences. With coffee, you hear foreigners trying to get involved in the value-addition chain, which is detrimental to the producers of coffee because we are not so sure the foreigners will give the best prices of coffee even if they claim to ensure better price.
We want to dispel negative perceptions about the side-effects of coffee. It is not true that drinking coffee is associated with high blood pressure. It is also not true that coffee causes insomnia — failing to sleep.
I take coffee all the time, but I sleep well and so do other people. Therefore, the campaign is going to be rigorous. We want people to take coffee. It will give more money to the farmers. This will increase coffee production and when that happens, people will get more money and live a happy life.
Is the kingdom planning to produce its own coffee products?
We have a product called Kaawa Mpologoma. It will be launched on December 14, this year. It is a brand roasted by our company, Emwanyi Terimba Ltd.
Emwanyi Terimba Ltd buys coffee from farmers and processes it. Uganda Coffee Development Authority has issued us with an export licence.
We shall export coffee beans to international markets. Emwanyi Terimba campaign has largely four components — re-popularising the growing of coffee and when I say re-popularising, we call upon people in Buganda to grow more coffee and, fortunately, they have taken it up.
Secondly, is to visit the farmers. You see me all over the kingdom urging people to grow coffee. Thirdly, we want to buy coffee from farmers. To export or roast the coffee and that is how Kaawa Mpologoma comes in it.
Any commodity that touches the economic wellbeing of the public must be marketed. We are urging people to grow coffee and they are heeding to our call.
Growing coffee is about providing sustainable income, especially to the ordinary person in the village. We want to understand the dynamics of the market and we believe with the kingdom getting involved in buying and exporting coffee, we shall attain a good market price.
That is why I think government disbanding Coffee Marketing Board, which was in charge of the market, was not a very good idea.
What does it mean for the kingdom getting a coffee export licence?
The export licence will enable us to build the capital base. I call upon investors who would like to work with us to come forward. There are more benefits partnering with us than doing it alone.
Has the kingdom trained extension workers?
We have got about 800 extension workers. The number is still small, but it is good we have started. If you want people to grow coffee, you must ensure that they get a good price and good yields.
The extension workers go to the farmers and advise them on the best farming practices. We would like every household to grow coffee because 70% of the people in Buganda are agro-based. Every household should have a coffee plantation, banana plantation and other crops.
We would like to have 100% coffee production. No government in the world can go distributing money to everyone; you can only render support to the efforts of the citizens.
The Kabaka is not going to take money to every household, but he has a voice which people listen to, and now he is telling people to grow coffee.
We want everybody to grow coffee because Kabaka has said so.
What is your advice in the fight against poverty?
Fighting poverty should go through simple and humble steps. The only way we can fight poverty in Buganda is by encouraging people to take simple and humble steps.
Gradually, those steps, once people are well-guided and supported, will give farmers the requisite experience, hence grow revenue.
What is your advice to policymakers?
I thank the people of Buganda who have heeded to our call to grow coffee. The production of coffee has gone up by more than 35% in Buganda in the last three years and several people are planting, considering the reports we are getting from Kabaka’s chiefs.
This is incredibly good and encouraging to us. Secondly, I call upon policymakers to ensure that farmers are given the necessary support. I talked about extension workers; the taxes on fertilisers should be lowered.
Also, the Government, through the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, should ensure that farmers get the right quality of fertilisers on the market. The policymakers should ensure that farmers access finances in terms of soft loans. The middle-level farmers need funds to expand and buy equipment for mechanised agriculture.
Are other coffee stakeholders welcome?
Is the kingdom open to other coffee stakeholders in the coffee industry?
We are open to team up with any investor or investors in legitimate business. The best practices in business is to encourage private investors because when you have private investors, you have competition and when you have competition, you get good quality everywhere.
If Government wants to add value to coffee, then it should not give a monopoly. The problem with the Vinci agreement was that it was giving a monopoly to one company to add value to our coffee.
That would edge out other investors. It would give Vinci an upper hand in the market and that would be devastating to the coffee farmers. It should be to everybody.
If you are giving Vinci concessions on tax, other people should not pay taxes as well. If Vinci is not going to pay for electricity, other people should not pay for electricity as well.
If Vinci is not going to pay income tax, NSSF and gets free land, that should apply to so many other people so that there is competition and the outcome will benefit all farmers.
When you create a monopoly, you are creating a problem. Government needs to have extension workers who go to farmers and advise them on the best farming practices so that the coffee they harvest is of the best quality. That is why government should address all these issues.