25 June 2014

Uganda: Coffee Farmers Call for Domestic Consumption

In order to have Ugandans take more cups of coffee instead of other beverages such as soda, coffee farmers have appealed to government to campaign for domestic consumption of the traditional crop.

For years, the coffee sub-sector has failed to meet its full potential, with a constrained domestic market making matters worse. Speaking at the third National Forum on Agriculture and Food Security at Sheraton hotel recently, Joseph Nkandu, the executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE), pointed to the low levels of domestic consumption as part of the reason the coffee sub-sector has performed poorly.

"We need to work with government to upscale the level at which our processed coffee is locally consumed. If more coffee is consumed domestically, it will encourage players into processing," Nkandu said.

According to statistics from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), coffee production has stagnated at around three million bags per year over the last 40 years. And a paltry three per cent of the coffee produced is consumed locally.

Figures show that the country produced 3.58 million bags, valued at $433m, last year. In 2012, 2.7million bags of coffee, worth $393 million, were produced. While this was an improvement, experts say the numbers could have been higher if the sector received more support. Nkandu said there was a significant amount of revenue that would be locally generated in addition to that accruing from exports if domestic consumption was promoted.

Citing Brazil, which is the world's biggest coffee producer, Nkandu argued that Uganda needed to borrow a leaf from the South American nation where domestic consumption is at 50 per cent. He explained that this was achieved after the Brazilian government identified with the private sector and promoted consumption.

"In Uganda where coffee processing technology is not very advanced, a kilogram of green coffee costs Shs 4,000. And when processed into roasted and ground coffee, it produced not less than 80 cups each, meaning that a lot is lost in selling raw coffee," he said.

Organised by the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), the forum was intended to brief stakeholders in the agricultural sector about the potential of coffee production in northern Uganda. Henry Ngabirano, the executive director of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), said they were passionate about encouraging local people to take coffee by implementing the domestic coffee consumption strategy.

UCDA promotes coffee through road shows, local and international exhibitions, linking companies to local coffee dealers. Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chairperson Mathias Kasamba promised that MPs would ensure the recently launched National Coffee Policy is expeditiously enacted into law to enhance growth in the coffee sector.

Coffee remains Uganda's main agricultural export, contributing an annual average of 20 per cent to the total export revenue over the last decade. An estimated 1.5 million households are engaged in coffee production, according to official figures.

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