Buganda Kingdom has asked Parliament to oppose government proposals to register and licence coffee farmers as entailed in the National Coffee Bill, 20I8.
The kingdom prime minister, Mr Charles Peter Mayiga, said if the Bill is enacted into law with clauses that compel farmers to register, many small scale coffee producers will be forced out of the industry.
"Threatening to penalise rural farmers because they do not have a licence will create a situation where people will ask that cattle keepers should also be registered," Mr Mayiga said while addressing the Lukiiko (kingdom parliament) at Bulange in Mengo yesterday during presentation of the kingdom's Shs121b budget for 2019/20.
The new Bill seeks regulation of all actors in the entire coffee value chain right from planting, through harvesting up to marketing and providing regulation of on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee industry.
Buganda Kingdom is currently undertaking a coffee revamp drive dubbed 'emwanyi terimba (you can't go wrong with coffee)' and about six million seedlings have been supplied in the sub-region.
Coffee is the predominant cash crop in Buganda. Its production, however, dwindled in the 1990s as new profitable crops such as vanilla were introduced.
Greater Masaka, the major coffee growing area at that time, offered huge employment opportunities for many businesspeople engaged in buying, marketing and transportation of the crop to Kampala, leading to vast wealth for a big section of the population.
It also created employment for workers in cooperative unions which were engaged in intermediate coffee processing.
The Bill also seeks to establish a voluntary coffee auction system to offer an alternative method of selling coffee that is intended to bring dynamism and efficiency in the coffee subsector due to increased competition in the coffee trade.
The draft law is being promoted by Mr Vincent Ssempijja, the minister for Agriculture, who says coffee specific extension services will be created to remove ambiguity and create responsibility on the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.
About the Bill
The Bill provides a strong institutional arrangement with demarcated roles for the actors involved as well as enhanced fees and penalties to deter coffee mismanagement.
The Bill seeks to repeal the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, which mainly emphasises off-farm activities of marketing and processing but leaving out on-farm activities such as planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and post-harvest handling.
"New developments, advances and challenges in coffee research, extension farmer organisations and climate change have emerged that need to be addressed," the Bill reads in part.
"As a result, the sub-sector is not appropriately run and cannot perform to its maximum or expected capacity. Issues relating to the generation of planting materials, harvesting and drying of coffee are not covered under the current law," it further reads.
In the Buganda Kingdom budget presented by Mr Waggwa Nsibirwa yesterday, key priority areas will include roofing Kasubi royal tombs, poverty eradication, providing bursaries, starting an online newspaper, digging 100 boreholes and registering a kingdom law firm.
What farmers need to know about coffee bill
The National Coffee Bill, 2018 is aimed at maintaining quality in the coffee sector that is Uganda's biggest foreign exchange earner.
The Bill is intended to replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act 1991, which was only limited to covering the marketing and processing stages of coffee.
The regulator of the sector, according to the Bill, will be Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), which will register all coffee farmers for purposes of monitoring and regulation. UCDA will then supervise the land on which the farmer intends to grow coffee to assess its suitability.
This registration will be entirely free and each registered farmer will be issued with an identification number, which may be withdrawn should he or she flout the procedures. According to the Bill, the government will channel information or materials about coffee to only registered farmers.