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Stumping Old & Underproductive Coffee Trees Boosts Productivity, UCDA Tips Mukono Farmers

State Minister for Agriculture, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga (4th Right) is joined by UCDA staff and Mukono district officials led by LCV chairperson, Rev. Peter Bakaluba Mukasa (3rd Left) to launch the fertilizer distribution programme in Greater Mukono

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has distributed organic fertilizers to farmers in Central Region who stumped their old and unproductive coffee trees.

Speaking at the launch of fertilizer distribution exercise in Mukono on Thursday, the State Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Agriculture), Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, said that the 34,080 bags of organic fertilisers that the government has distributed to farmers in Mukono, Kayunga, Buikwe, Buvuma, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Luweero, Mityana, Gomba, Butambala, Mpigi and Wakiso will provide essential nutrients to rejuvenate the 2,036,166 rehabilitated coffee trees in the region.

“The fertilizer we are distributing is to demonstrate that if fertilizer is used effectively it can boost production and productivity,” Bwino said, urging farmers to embrace the use of fertilizers.

He said the older the coffee tree becomes, the less the yields.

“We are now focusing on productivity. You should get maximum yields per tree. You can get 4kgs of Fair Average Quality (FAQ) from a coffee tree if you apply the best agronomic practices,” the Minister said.

Bwino highlighted key points that will lead to increased coffee production and productivity in Central region and Uganda at large.

Firstly, he urged farmers to maintain and improve the existing coffee farms/shambas.

“This can be done by stumping old and underproductive coffee trees. Thereafter, you should apply manure and fertilizers on these rejuvenated trees for better yields,” Bwino said.

He added: “You should identify the existing gaps and fill them. Apply good agronomic practices. If you don’t feed your coffee, you’ll not get the best results.”

Bwino also asked farmers to ensure coffee quality by picking only ripe/red cherries.

“Don’t defile the coffee beans. Pick only red cherries and don’t dry it on bare ground,” Bwino said, asking farmers not to mix coffee with stones.

“Don’t store coffee in sacks on cemented floors but on pallets,” he said.

Thirdly, the Minister asked farmers to join and form coffee cooperatives so as to get better prices through collective bargaining.

Minister Bwino (4th Right) is joined by UCDA staff and Mukono district leaders led by LCV chairperson, Rev. Peter Bakaluba Mukasa (5th Right) to launch the fertilizer distribution programme

He said farmers should learn to brand their coffee better.

“Coffee drinkers are interested in traceability. They want to know the farmer who’s growing the coffee they are drinking,” he said, adding that coffee from different parts of the country have different, unique tastes.

“I am challenging you to build your own brands,” the Minister said.

He further encouraged farmers to expand their farms only after they have cared for the existing coffee trees/farms.

Bwino also urged farmers to have targets as coffee farmers at an individual or group level.

“If you’re producing 20,000 bags, have a target to increase it to 40,000 bags in three years,” Bwino said, adding that as State Minister for Agriculture, his focus will be on coffee, Uganda’s leading cash crop.

The Minister said he has instructed the UCDA management to set up a special committee/platform in Central region so as to make coffee farming more lucrative.

“Each district in the Central region shall have a representative on this special coffee committee,” the Minister said, adding that it is a political mobilization platform to boost coffee farming, processing and export.

Bwino also clarified that contrary to false reports, Uganda’s decision to leave the International Coffee Organization shall not affect Uganda’s coffee exports.

“Uganda will only ratify the new agreement once her interests have been catered for,” the Minister said.

Mukono District LCV chairperson, Rev. Peter Bakaluba Mukasa (L) with State Minister for Agriculture, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga at the launch of the fertilizer distribution programme in Mukono

UCDA’s Director Development Services, Apollo Kamugisha, who represented the UCDA Managing Director, said that the Central Region is highly recognized in Uganda’s coffee industry. He pointed out Greater Mukono which he said is key in coffee production, export and maintaining livelihoods of many people through coffee.

He urged farmers to continue working closely with UCDA field teams to address challenges they are facing.

He said UCDA is addressing challenges affecting coffee farmers including the coffee wilt disease that wiped out 56% of Robusta coffee trees in the 1990s across the country.

“While the national average was 56%, Kayunga district lost over 90% of Robusta coffee trees. That’s how many went into commercial pineapple growing,” Kamugisha said, adding that the National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI) has since developed coffee wilt disease resistant varieties.

“Kayunga and other areas that were badly hit by coffee wilt disease are now coming back into coffee production,” he said.

He asked field teams to also learn from the farmers because they are “knowledgeable.”

He also asked farmers to stick to the recommended 10ft*10ft spacing for Robusta, saying the reduced spacing (1m*3m spacing) does not make sense because Uganda’s Robusta coffee plants are much bigger compared to the ones in other countries where that spacing is used.

“The reduced spacing also calls for high intensity feeding. You need enough water, fertilizers and a lot of management. It calls for combined harvesters,” he said, adding that NaCORI is carrying out research on the reduced spacing and the results will be out soon.

 

The UCDA Regional Manager for the Central region, Liza Luseesa, said the Authority in collaboration with the District Local Government and Operation Wealth Creation verified 2,036,166  stumped coffee trees in Mukono.

 

“So, it was on this basis that the (Central) region was allocated 34,080 25kg bags of organic fertilizer to be distributed to farmers,” Luseesa said.

According to Luseesa, applying fertilizers on stumped coffee trees increases productivity.

 

Mukono district deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Kizito Myene acknowledged that both the soils and the trees in the region are tired, thus applying fertilizers is critical.

He commended the initiative of stumping old coffee trees and the distribution of fertilizers to boost the soils. The CAO, however, appealed to the government to continue with coffee research.

 

Wilberforce Kisambira, a farmer representative in Mukono district, who has embraced the government’s advice of stumping old coffee trees, lauded UCDA’s initiative of giving out fertilizers to farmers. He however decried the low prices of coffee compared to high prices of fertilizers. He appealed to the government to address the high cost of fertilizers, saying it makes production costly.

“The fertilizers we have received shall be put to good use,” he said.

Some of the Recipients of fertilizer

The fertilizer distribution exercise is one of the several interventions that UCDA has employed to meet a target of producing 20 million bags of coffee by 2025.

 

 

 

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