Coffee farmers in Luweero district have opposed the National Coffee bill 2018, saying it is intended to eliminate them from growing coffee.
The bill, which is before parliament, seeks to provide for the registration and licensing coffee farmers across the country.
The bill also proposes that land, where the coffee is to be grown, shall be evaluated by Uganda Coffee Development Authority-UCDA to determinate whether or not it is suitable for coffee growing.
The Bill wants, among other provisions, to reform and provide for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub-sector. However, coffee farmers in Butuntumula Sub County in Luweero district have criticised the bill, saying it was brought in bad faith to eject poor farmers from coffee production.
John Kibalama, the Director Bakyabumba Coffee Farmers ‘Cooperative Society in Butuntumula sub county, says they are suspicious that UCDA may hide in the evaluation of land and to block some farmers from growing the crop claiming that land is not suitable for the crop.
He asks government to direct its energy on addressing the unpredictable weather conditions, inadequate agricultural extension officers and limited fertilizer use other seeking to license farmers.
Proscovia Nanteza, a coffee farmer in Butuntumula Sub County, says the proposal seeking to compel farmers to acquire licenses for growing coffee may discourage other people for joining the business.
She instead wants government to enforce available laws that promote coffee quality rather compelling them to seek licenses.
Moses Ssentongo, another coffee farmer in Genda village, says they depend on coffee seedlings distributed by Operation Wealth Creation, which are in most cases fake.
Ssentongo wonders if the government has failed to distribute quality seedlings, how it can enforce quality coffee production through registration and licensing farmers.
Venancio Bugembe, a coffee farmer at Kasiiso village in Butuntumula Sub County, says government should put much emphasis on arresting coffee thieves who force them to harvest immature coffee beans rather than wasting resources on registering farmers.
Other farmers questioned how the Agriculture Ministry can claim that they don’t know the number of coffee farmers yet they were enumerated during the recent agriculture census. Others questioned why government is targeting coffee farmers yet several crops are grown in the country.
However, a few farmers led by supported the bill, saying it will stop people stealing their coffee since they won’t be able to sell it without licenses.
The Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister, Vincent Ssempijja says the registration exercise will help government to know the exact number of coffee farmers in the country so as to support them.
According to UCDA, Uganda exported 4.2 million 60 kg bags of coffee in the 2016/17 season ending September 30th, the highest in recent years since 1996 when 4.15 million bags were sold.
UCDA has since 2012 distributed nearly 317,000 coffee seedlings to farmers across 98 districts that grow the crop, though low productivity remains a big hindrance to productivity.