Friction over Ugandan Bill to streamline coffee exports

Monday July 22 2019

Some of Uganda’s finest coffee at an exhibition in Kampala.

Some of Uganda’s finest coffee at an exhibition in Kampala. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JONATHAN KAMOGA
By JONATHAN KAMOGA
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A bill before the Ugandan parliament which seeks to streamline the coffee sector has created friction between government and stakeholders.

The National Coffee Bill 2018 currently before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture for scrutiny, seeks to regulate on-farm and off-farm activities within the coffee value chain through issuing licences to farmers and traders.

Agriculture minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja told The EastAfrican the Bill aims to enhance quality of coffee that Uganda exports “because quality coffee is highly priced at the world market and that is what Uganda has been known for until recently.”

Mr Ssempijja, however, added that the Bill is subject to change after various consultations with different stakeholders on different clauses.

Some of those that have come out to oppose it are the National Agricultural Research Organisation and the National Coffee Research Institute who while appearing before the Committee last week said that the clause of registration will push out small scale farmers.

According to the Bill, all commercial farmers with more than 50 trees are to be registered.

Opponents of the Bill contend that small-scale farmers with less than 50 trees will be left out thus reducing the total output produced annually and dent efforts to increase output.

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority says the country has about 1.7 million households involved in coffee production. Only 2 per cent of those are large scale farmers with over 10 acres.

Uganda, which currently exports 4.6 million 60kg coffee bags annually faces an arduous task of achieving its target of 20 million bags by 2020.

Uganda is the second largest exporter of coffee in Africa at 288,000 tonnes behind Ethiopia, which is at 384,000 tonnes.

If passed into law, the Bill will also stop the day-to-day selling of coffee and provide for a coffee auction which it says will bring dynamism and efficiency to the coffee subsector.

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