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Why Coffee Bill Offends Socio-Economic Rights Of Farmers

City lawyers have chipped in on the ongoing discussion of the National Coffee bill 2018, saying it hampers the socio-economic rights of Ugandans once enacted in its current form, URN reports.

The National Coffee bill 2018 seeks among others things to provide for the registration of commercial coffee farmers and regulation of both on-farm and off activities.     

The move is aimed improved the quality of coffee and improves its competitiveness on the local and international market.       

Samuel Kakande from Silicon Advocates argues that the bill also seeks to restrict the dissemination of information to registered farmers, which he says violates the access to information act.  

He says the attempt by the bill to criminalize aspects of coffee production with penalties is uncalled for. According to Kakande, the bill should have only proposed a few amendments to some aspects in the Uganda Coffee Development Act 2013.    

He explains that Uganda Coffee Development Authority has failed in its mandate because of limited government support and not law. Kakande notes that government ought to support the Authority by providing adequate funding, staff and capacity building to ensure information follow to farmers.  

Jude Byamukama, a lawyer with JByamukama and Co advocates observes that the National Coffee bill is trying to establish a government monopoly over the coffee production chain other than regulate the industry.

He proposes that instead of introducing penalties and offenses for farmers, government should provide them with incentives and sensitise them on the benefits that come with coffee registration. Byamukama also notes that the registration of coffee farmers should be made voluntary.

Another lawyer told URN on condition of anonymity that the bill in its current form only caters for large scale coffee farmers. He says there is need for government to provide the farmers with the necessary equipment and information before proposing penalties and offences.  

He also says the bill has drawn a lot of pessimism from several Ugandans because of their mistrust for government policies. Isaac Muyanja, a Commercial coffee farmer in Masaka district, says the bill only seeks to oppress small holder coffee farmers.  

He explains that coffee production has sustained his family for over 20years, adding that some the proposals in the bill once approved will only frustrate other farmers like him.    

Muyanja also notes that UCDA lacks manpower to certify coffee farmers countrywide. The bill proposes registration of farmers with acreage of 50 trees and above. 

Ambrose Ahimbisibwe, a coffee farmer from Sheema, says the proposed amendments are frustrating, adding that he would rather drop coffee farming other than register with the Authority.

“If it means cutting down the coffee plantation, I will but I won’t register because the end result will be exorbitant taxes from government,” he said.

Ahimbisibwe argues that farmers don’t choose to abandon their farms but conditions force them too.

 The National Coffee bill 2018 was tabled before parliament by Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries ministry. It seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act 1991.
The act only covered off-farm activities including marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and post harvesting, handling outside the scope of the law.             

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