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Uganda Coffee farmers get sh7b EU deal

Tuesday July 12, 2011

Coffee farmers, under the Ankole Coffee Producers Co-operative Union, have secured a contract to supply over 1,000 tonnes of coffee to the European Union (EU) and South Africa.

The development comes at a time when the country is faced with a shortfall in foreign exchange earnings as a result of dwindling export receipts.

John Nuwagaba, the union’s general manager, said farmers would fetch about sh7.2b this season if they supply the required coffee.

Nuwagaba identified the EU countries as Spain, Holland, UK and Germany. He, however, expressed fear that they might fail to raise the required quantities because farmers are not organised and due to a decrease in coffee acreages caused by the coffee wilt disease.

His concern is not far-fetched as issues of honouring and raising contractual quantities have always been a big asking for local exporters. This has, in turn, taken a huge toll on Uganda’s export earnings.

The official said, besides being strict on quality, the interested countries want non-contaminated organic coffee.

Nuwagaba was speaking at the Kigarama Growers Co-operative Society annual general meeting at their office headquarters in Sheema district.

He noted that due to lack of regulations, coffee farmers were selling coffee plantations to private businessmen before the harvesting season.

“During the harvesting season, you find that some farmers don’t own the plantations because they sell the coffee before it is ready,” Nuwagaba noted.

He criticised the Government for failing to invest heavily in improving coffee quality and production.

Nuwagaba said, compared to neighbouring countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, which have invested in coffee research, quality improvement and post-harvest handling, Uganda has neglected the coffee industry. “These countries have invested heavily in coffee to help farmers earn handsomely,” Nuwagaba said.

He also decried the promotion of inter-cropping, saying it has affected the quality of coffee.

“How do you advise farmers to rear pigs in coffee plantations? This lowers the value of Uganda’s coffee on the international market,” he noted.

The Kigarama sub-county LCIII chairperson, Lauben Mugarura, urged the Government to revive co-operative societies to give farmers a voice to negotiate better deals.

“Instead of labouring, while mobilising people to join village groups and get one goat from the National Agricultural Advisory Service programme, let us concentrate on reviving the dormant co-operative societies.”

The Kigarama Growers Co-operative Society chairman, Yoweri Mwesigye, said the society had 400 members, but only 150 were active.

By Chris Mugasha: The New Vision Newspaper

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