The Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Ssempijja (in featured photo) has said plans are underway for a crisis meeting with Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda to discuss how to clear the Shs159bn arrears coffee nursery bed operators are demanding from Government.
It’s understood that the Coffee nursery operators have been supplying seedlings to farmers for the last three seasons and many of them have not received a single penny.
Ssempijja made the remarks Tuesday while meeting with MPs on the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture where he had appeared alongside officials from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to introduce the National Coffee Bill 2018.
This was after lawmakers asked why Government has failed to pay its coffee seedlings suppliers, who are threatening to protest over delayed payment for the last two financial years.
Ssempijja acknowledge that the coffee seedling suppliers haven’t been cleared but called for calm, arguing that Government is set to meet its obligation of paying them all their arrears with a meeting between Rugunda scheduled for Wednesday to resolve the issue of arrears to coffee nursery operators.
Meanwhile, Government defended the proposal to register coffee farmers as proposed in the National Coffee Bill 2018, arguing that the move will be critical at cutting off middle men and ensure development of the coffee sector in Uganda.
Among the contentious Clauses in the National Coffee Bill is Clause 26 that provides for registration of coffee farmers, reading, “The Authority shall register all coffee farmers in the coffee subsector.26(2) 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 and deemed suitable for growing coffee.”
Apollo Kamugisha, Director Development Services at UCDA defended the move saying it will be critical at ridding the sector of middle men and standardization of coffee.
He added that it will give coffee farmers better market opportunities, saying the move came after reports showed that were earning peanuts.
Kamugisha argued that licensing of coffee farmers is geared towards establishing farmers in the sector, quantity and quality of coffee grown, details that will arm Government with ample information to conduct comprehensive planning for the sector.
The National Coffee Bill was tabled before Parliament on 23rd November 2018 and referred to the Committee of Agriculture for scrutiny and the Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, which was enacted in l99l and only covered off-farm activities of marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and poor harvesting handling outside the scope of the law. In addition, since the enactment of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act.
Government argued that after twenty years, new developments advances and challenges in coffee research, extension’ farmer organisations and climate change have emerged that need to be addressed.
“It is therefore imperative to reform the law as it does not meet the current needs and long-term goals of Government,” Ssempijja said.