Coffee traders and processors under their association Uganda Quality Coffee Traders and Processors Association want government to clearly explain the intentions of the contentious National Coffee Bill 2018.
Appearing before parliament’s Agriculture Committee this morning, Amos Kasigi, Chairman of the association said that ever since news of the bill broke out, they have noted the negative misconceptions about the bill among farmers who believe registration is targeted at taxing their revenue as a result of licensing them.
He note that government should come out and inform farmers about the intentions of this registration and they should clearly spell out that it is not aimed at taxation.
He also called on Government to separate the registration and licensing sections in the bill so that farmers can clearly know that registration is different from licensing.
“We have noted so far the negative misconception about the bill among farmers and public at large who believe that registration is targeted at taxing their revenue as a result of licensing. We humbly suggest that the categories be separated into registration and licensing,” Kasigi said, adding that registration should be voluntary.
“This also requires a great input in terms of sensitizing farmers on the benefits of being registered including giving detailed explanation because the public has mixed feelings considering the ongoing controversies around land,” he added.
Clause 26(2) of the bill reads: “A person shall be registered as a coffee farmer on fulfilling the following requirements-; (a) he or she shall either be growing coffee at the time of registration or shall have proof of his or her intention to commence growing coffee within a period of six months, from the date of registration; and (b) the land where the coffee is grown or is to be grown shall have been evaluated by the Authority (UCDA)and deemed suitable for growing coffee.”
Although the coffee traders and processors welcomed the offences and penalties set out in the proposed bill, saying these will be critical at bringing order and compliance and subsequently improve quality of coffee, Kasigi said the penalties are too harsh and instead called for sensitization of farmers so that they can improve.
“We recommend that the culprits be sensitized and be given chance to comply, failure of which will lead to the law being applied,” he said
Clause 54 of the National Coffee Bill stipulates that a person who; operates an unregistered coffee nursery, sells or distributes substandard seedlings or seeds, harvests or is found in possession of immature cherries, neglects a coffee farm, roasts or packages non-coffee material as coffee, poorly stores wet cherries leading to mold formation, sets up a store or warehouse that does not meet the requirements for storing coffee will be held liable.
Further offences include; person who being a processor, does not have a husk chamber store, operates a huller without a license or without an approved structure, deals in coffee for internal marketing without a license or in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding forty eight currency points or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both and each currency point is equivalent to Shs20,000 thus putting the fine at Shs960,000.
The National Coffee Bill 2018 was tabled in April 2018 by the Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Ssempijja who noted that the Bill seeks to repeal and replace the outdated Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act enacted in l991 that only covered off-farm activities of marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and post harvesting handling outside the scope of the law.
However, the many sections of the bill have been opposed by key players including farmers and the National Coffee Research Institute-NaCORI among others.