Uganda: Coffee Export Volumes Rise Amid Falling Prices

Women sorting and drying coffee beans.
26 October 2018

Kampala — Coffee export volumes have grown by 300,000 bags in the year running to September.

The commodity exported 4.8 million in the year running to September compared to 4.5 million bags in the same period, according data from Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

Data released by UCDA indicates that Uganda raked in Shs1.8 trillion ($472m) in the 2018/19 coffee calendar up from Shs1.2 trillion ($315 million) last year.

Both the value and volume of coffee exports have been on a steady increase since 2015.

UCDA attributed the increase to conducive weather in coffee growing areas and an increase in the number of households growing the crop.

An estimated 1.8 million Ugandan households are involved in coffee production, with 80 per cent growing the robusta variety.

Uganda is the second biggest producer and exporter of coffee in Africa, exporting about 4.8 million bags (288,000 metric tonnes) every year.

Ethiopia, which produces 6.4 million bags or 384,000 metric tonnes annually, remains the largest coffee economy on the continent.

In Uganda, coffee is mostly produced in the central and eastern parts of the country and farmers have in the last three years experienced bumper yield.

Already, the harvest season has kicked off and it looks pretty good.

UCDA has projected output in the 2018/19 season to increase to more than five million bags (60kg) given improved conditions.

The trend feeds well into government's larger plan which seeks to reach 20 million bags per annum by 2020, an almost 77 per cent increase going by the current numbers.

However, the projections seem too ambitious.

The Uganda National Coffee Strategy Plan for 2015-2020 has put expected productions at 5.8 million bags by 2020. The increase will see Uganda earn at least $1.1b, making coffee the second highest foreign exchange earner, after tourism, which brings in $1.5b.

However, the effects of climate change coupled with ageing crops, poor cultivation and post-harvest methods, according to some UCDA officials, might be a serious hurdle to achieving the 20 million bags by 2020,

Coffee processors say the country could get much more than what it is currently earning from its coffee exports if it pushed for value addition and branding.

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