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Coffee sector projection of Shs20m bags hit by challenges

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Policy implementers in the coffee sector will not be able to effect President Yoweri Museveni’s 2015 directive to accelerate coffee production from the current Shs3.5 million 60 kilogrames bags to Shs20 million bags by the year 2020.

President Museveni issued the directive while launching the Coffee Roadmap, but now a top government official says the target is unlikely to be achieved due to a number of factors including the effects of climate change, narrow acreage, diseases and pests and, disorganization of the farmers.

“We are not likely to achieve the 20 million bags target but we are seeing progress,” Dr. Ezra Suruma, the Head of the Delivery Unit in the Office of Prime Minister, said yesterday during a Cabinet retreat organized to analyse performance of government ministries and departments in the financial year 2016/17.

To actualise this directive, in December 2015, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit convened a stakeholders’ meeting in which an agenda for a Coffee Lab was agreed upon. The stakeholders agreed on potential strategies for government action in FY 2016/2017 pending design of a Coffee 2020 Roadmap (effectively, the results of the aforementioned Coffee Lab).

And in April 2016, the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda directed UCDA to hold another stakeholders’ consultative meeting in which a post seedlings distribution and management framework was developed for the FY 2016/17.

Subsequently, President Museveni attracted the goodwill of McKinsey & Company Limited, a renowned global consulting firm to support the transformational process through developing a comprehensive medium-to-long term roadmap for the coffee subsector. This was to be undertaken through a Rapid Delivery Coffee Lab which was held in March 2017.

The Coffee Lab identified nine key transformative initiatives that focus on putting Uganda on the path to achieving Shs20 million bags of coffee production per year by 2025. They hinge on three pillars which will catalyse the transformation of the coffee sector in Uganda namely Demand and Value Addition, Production and Enablers. These are further broken down into nine specific initiatives.

Among the initiatives is building structured demand through country to country deals, especially with China; branding Ugandan coffee to drive demand and improve value by up to 15 per cent; supporting local coffee businesses for value addition, including primary processing and a soluble coffee plant and strengthening farmer organisations and producer cooperatives to enhance commercialisation for smallholder farmers and ensuring broad access to extension, inputs, finance and aggregation.

Others are: supporting joint ventures between middle-class owners of underutilized land and investors to develop coffee production; providing and promoting concessions for coffee production on large underutilized tracts of land; improving the quality of planting material (seeds and seedlings) through strengthened research and multiplication of improved varieties and improving access to quality inputs by reducing counterfeiting (fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides) from current 40-60 per cent.

Further, government zeroed on developing a coffee finance programme with the Central Bank and Treasury to provide financing to farmer organisations, including on-lending to smallholders, coffee businesses and investors.

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