Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, the Managing Director at UCDA, speaking at the event
As the coffee industry in Uganda heats up with opportunities, a group of players from different professional backgrounds under their umbrella body– Uganda National Coffee Forum-Uganda, want to use their broad network to improve coffee quality, value addition and consumption.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), a body charged with regulating, promoting and overseeing the coffee sub-sector and the private sector players under the National Coffee Forum-Uganda have resolved to implement the best practices along the entire value chain in order to make Uganda’s coffee the best in the world in terms of quality and increase what farmers earn.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting aimed at improving the quality of coffee in Uganda at Serena Hotel on Thursday, Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, the Managing Director at UCDA, said coffee is increasingly becoming a hot topic and business, noting that many professionals are joining the coffee sub-sector at various levels.
“Coffee is very profitable and the second most traded item in the world (after oil),” Iyamulemye said, adding: “If we are going to make more money, there’s no compromise-we must produce quality coffee.”
He said quality starts from the seed up to the final level of consumption and can be compromised at any level.
He urged players not to ‘cut corners’, noting that many times traders are the root cause of immature coffee cherries harvested by farmers.
Iyamulemye noted that coffee quality should concern all players because when the coffee crosses the borders, it doesn’t belong to an individual farmer or company since it becomes Uganda coffee. He also urged traders and exporters to fulfill their contractual obligations.
He said Uganda can easily become the world’s leading producer of quality coffee.
Iyamulemye said Uganda emerged 3rd in the recently concluded “Coffees Roasted At Origin” Competition held in Paris, France. 13 coffee brands emerged winners in the competition that saw nearly 200 exceptional coffees/samples spread over 25 countries from four continents take part in the competition.
“Our ambition is to be number one. In the Best of the Pearl 2023 competition held this week, our Robusta coffees scored highly. Our scores are going up to 86%. We can go to 90% and we can be number one,” he said.
Eng. Francis Wakabi, a farmer and a representative from the National Coffee Forum-Uganda, said the forum comprises of all players in the coffee sub-sector and their aim is to provide solutions to all players.
“As a forum, we want to improve productivity and quality in order to attract a better price,” he said, adding that the forum is willing to work closely with UCDA and other development partners to drive the coffee agenda forward with key focus on quality, quantity and price.
He said the efforts are being taken to formalize the group that consists of over 500 players.
“We have been organizing on-farm trainings and the turn-up has been massive. There’s still a big information gap especially on coffee agronomy. We intend to have these trainings quarterly in various parts of the country,” he said, calling on UCDA to be a key partner in the on-farm tours and trainings as it will play a big role in achieving the 20m-60kg- bags as enshrined in the National Coffee Roadmap.
Speaking at the same event, Amos Kasigi, the Chairman of Uganda Quality Coffee Traders and Processors Association, pledged to continue working with UCDA to improve coffee quality.
He says they are sensitizing their members about the National Coffee Act, 2021 and other regulations that govern the coffee industry with the ultimate aim of improving coffee quality.
He noted that with improved quality, a kilogram of green beans can fetch as high as US$7.
“We can’t settle for US$3, 2 or sometimes 1.5. We are ready to go through all the hardships to improve the quality in order to get a better price,” he said.
According to the National Coffee Act, 2021, a person who operates an unregistered coffee nursery or coffee seed garden; sells and distributes substandard and diseased planting materials; harvests or is found in possession of immature cherries or strips a coffee tree; roasts and packages non-coffee materials as coffee and poorly stores wet cherries or heaps coffee leading to mold formation, commits an offence and upon conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred currency points (Shs2m) or imprisonment not exceeding four years or both.
The law also allows UCDA to confiscate and destroy coffee spread to dry on bare ground.
The Authority is also empowered to confiscate and destroy molded coffee or wet coffee bean with a moisture content not exceeding 14% being held or processed by any person.