By Felix Oketcho
Civil Society Organisations led by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade and Information Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) Uganda has launched a project aimed at improving the coffee value chains in the country.
Dubbed “Fair for All”, the five years program that targets farmers in Mbale and Mubende Districts as key beneficiaries are core implemented by Agency for Community Empowerment (AFCE), Uganda Agribusiness Alliance (UAA), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) and Oxfam in Uganda.
Uganda’s exports are dominated by traditional cash crops such as coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco, with coffee being the principal export crop.
In recent times the government has sought to promote large scale foreign-owned coffee plantations through various incentive schemes so as to reach the set target of production of 20 million coffee bags by 2025.
According to Sam Tumugarukire, the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager SEATINI Uganda, the above process has prioritized the interest of foreign investors compared to the dominant small and medium scale indigenous coffee producers and local landowners,”
“This project will help support small scale coffee producers and workers in or affected by large scale coffee production to defend their rights and interests against the government and large-scale coffee plantation owners,” he said.
Tumugarukire further says the project will support civil society to influence sub-national, national and international policies, laws and norms, that safeguard the rights of small-scale coffee producers and communities in the coffee trade and value-chains.
“The project will advocate for public policies and private sector practices that strengthen small and medium scale farmers in the coffee value chain like better prices, better access to finance, public investment in processing and value addition,” he explained.
He adds that the project will also strengthen citizens capacity especially women and youth to have oversight and voice-over fiscal, trade and investment-related regulations and processes.
Africa Kiiza, a Trade Policy Analyst at SEATINI Uganda said the project is aimed at ensuring farmers get value out of the coffee they grow.
“When coffee is exported in form of raw beans, many farmers lose out. Arabica coffee is bought cheaply from farmers in Mbale and exported to Germany to make Nescafe which is sold expensively. This is because farmers don’t have readily available markets for their coffee and end up selling cheaply. This project is here to deal with such issues,” Kiiza said.
The Mbale District Commercial Officer Ruth Wambi applauded SEATINI for the project that she said will greatly benefit farmers.
“For a long time, we have been doing agriculture but farmers remain needy and don’t improve their welfare. This project will help the farmers here create a difference. I thank SEATINI for coming up with this timely project,” Wambi said.
“Value addition is the way to go for every farmer if we are to fight poverty and for farmers to benefit out of agriculture,” he added.
According to the project implementation plan, SEATINI Uganda will also develop a mobile app that will help in reporting and reporting human rights violations in the coffee value chain.
Uganda Coffee Trends
According to this year’s report by Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Uganda’s Coffee exports in August 2021 amounted to 700,990 60-kilo bags worth US$ 75.09 million (Shs264.7bn) reports the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. This comprised 636,458 bags of Robusta valued at the US $65.24 million and 64.532 bags of Arabica valued at US$ 9.85 million. This was an increase of 34.89% and 63.06 % in quantity and value respectively compared to the same month last year.
“By comparing the quantity of coffee exported by type in the same month of last Coffee Year (August 2020), Robusta increased by 39% and 70.98% in quantity and value respectively, while Arabica exports increased by 4.44% and 24.80% in quantity and value respectively,” the report reads.
UCDA says increasing Robusta exports during the month compared to the previous year were due to newly planted coffee which started yielding supported by favourable weather. This was also compounded by a positive trend in global coffee prices in the month of July and August as Brazil faced the threat of frost, which prompted exporters to release their stocks.
The modest increase in Arabica coffee exports with a correspondingly high increase in value compared to the same month last year was on account of higher global coffee prices as mentioned above.
Coffee exports for the 12 months (September 2020-August 2021) amounted to 6,414,696 60-kilo bags worth US$ 607.81 million compared to 5,216,608-kilo bags valued at US$ 502.24 million the previous year (September 2019-August 2020). This represents a 22.97% and 21.02% increase in both quantity and value respectively.
The quantity of coffee exported in August was the highest in a single month surpassing the previous month’s exports, while the total export quantity in 12 months was the highest in 30 years.