By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi
In a recent meeting with Uganda’s Deputy Head of Mission to Beijing, China, Amb. Fred Mugisha, Ugandan coffee exporters were encouraged to retain quality of coffee as this is a key barrier to foreign market penetration.
Mugisha said that, traditionally, the Chinese were tea people but they are now shifting to coffee which provides Uganda with a big opportunity.
“We have been marketing and promoting Uganda coffee in China and of late, we have come across very serious Chinese companies that want to do joint ventures with Ugandan companies to get our coffee in the Chinese market,” he said.
The Ambassador pledged the embassy’s support to exporters who are ready to do business in China.
He noted that online marketing is the way to go and encouraged them to take advantage of the available online channels to market Ugandan coffee.
David Katungi, the Director of Strategy and Business Development at Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) emphasized that to embrace the opportunities in emerging markets such as China, exporters need to do due diligence to understand the needs of the coffee buyers to mobilize the kind of coffee required.
In addition, he said they need to work together, as no single exporter would be able to satisfy the market.
Katungi urged the exporters to build their capacity to provide quality coffee which will guarantee the market.
“Exporters would benefit more from this market if they came together and raised sufficient capital or meet the requirements because the volumes are high,” Katungi said.
He added, “Exporters should understand the dynamics of the China coffee market. One of those dynamics is that for one to supply and sustain supply they will need to partner with a local Chinese firm.”
In addition, he says the general marketing principles apply. The exporters must ensure they meet the market quality requirements, they must be consistent with supply, they must be trusted, and operate on pure acceptable business principles, he guided.
The Director of Quality and Regulatory Services at UDCA, Doreen Rweihangwe, notes that UCDA has profiled Uganda coffees according to agro-ecological zones in partnership with Coffee Quality Institute (CQI).
“Exporters will be able to use the coffee profiles to market their coffee which is important for buyers who want to trace the coffee origin,” Rweihangwe said.
Aggrey Tumuhairwe, a partner in Kangumamu Agro-processing and Exporters, a player already exploiting the Chinese market said that for Ugandan exporters to benefit from the China market, they will require an office there and will need to partner with Chinese companies.
He called on Government to support exporters through a brand awareness campaign of the country that will make Uganda known in China. This he says can then be supplemented with a coffee promotion campaign.
Coffee exports to China have been increasing over the years. For instance, Uganda exported 33,000 bags of coffee to China in 2018, 66,000 bags in 2019 and 83, 000 bags in 2020.