As Ugandans get more passionate to revitalize coffee farming, government is also committed to getting a wider market for the crop with much emphasis on value addition, to attract more profits from the crop.
Africa produces about 12% of the world’s coffee and is the continent’s most important agricultural crop.
But while Uganda is currently the leading coffee exporter in Africa, and the second-largest coffee producer in Africa, having exported over 5.76 million bags 60Kg worth USD 846 million in FY2021/22, much of this is unprocessed in the form of green beans.
The coffee value chain in Uganda supports over 5 million households engaged in various coffee activities from production to export.
Farmers, processors, exporters, roasters and coffee associations are some of the direct beneficiaries of the crop.
Coffee is Uganda’s top-earning export crop, generating an estimated over $800 million in export earnings each year. The country is the 7th largest producer of coffee in the world, and the leading exporter of coffee in Africa.
Coffee is grown in five areas of Uganda mainly the Central, Western, Southwestern, Northern and Eastern regions. The Western region is known to produce the highest quality coffee.
Robusta coffee is grown in the low altitude areas of Central, Eastern, Western and South Eastern Uganda up to 1,200 meters above sea level. Arabica coffee on the other hand is grown in the highland areas on the slopes of Mount Elgon in the East and Mt. Rwenzori and Mt. Muhabura in the West, up to 2,300 meters above sea level.
The majority of coffee farmers in Uganda are smallholders, with an average farm size of just 0.5 hectares.
Coffee is often intercropped with other food crops, such as bananas, beans, and maize.
Coffee production in Uganda is facing a number of challenges that farmers have grappled with for long. Low productivity is one of the major hiccups; the average yield of coffee in Uganda is just 500 kilograms per hectare, compared to 1,500 kilograms per hectare in Brazil.
The quality of coffee produced in Uganda is also affected due to poor processing and handling practices. The fluctuating prices of coffee put pressure on coffee farmers’ incomes, middlemen who buy their produce cheaply cheat farmers and they mint millions out of the crop at the end of the chain.
Despite the challenges, the coffee sector in Uganda has the potential to grow significantly in the coming years. The government is investing in a number of initiatives to improve the productivity and quality of coffee production, including Providing training to farmers on improved farming practices, investing in new processing facilities, promoting the export of high-quality coffee among others.
In his recent working visit to Serbia President Museveni and his delegation put a lot of emphasis on coffee export to Serbia, which has a ready virgin market.
Museveni said the country wants fair-minded outsiders to work with and add value to Uganda’s coffee at home so that farmers can earn more from coffee that where it stands now.
If these initiatives are successful, Uganda could become a major player in the global coffee market.