Uganda records highest coffee exports

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Uganda’s coffee industry has recorded the highest ever export volumes as well as earnings for the Coffee Year 2019/2020 (Oct-Sept), signaling the crop’s steady recovery.

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | Latest data from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority shows that coffee exports for the 12 months amounted to 5.36 million 60-kilo bags worth US$512.23million compared to 4.44million bags worth US$433.95million in the previous year due to  increase in production on the account of fruition of newly planted coffee trees and favorable weather. This represents a 20% and 18% increase in both quantity and value, respectively.

UCDA has since 2012 distributed millions of coffee seedlings to farmers across the 98 districts that grow the crop, though low productivity, unpredictable weather conditions, inadequate agricultural extension officers, and low use of fertilizers remains a big hindrance to productivity.

The replanting initiative received a major boost in 2013 when the government unveiled the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) aimed at raising household incomes, fighting poverty and causing social economic transformation.

UCDA says in its September market report that elite coffee seedling distribution that commenced in mid-July for northern region was completed, though planting Arabica continued in Zombo, Nebbi and Arua districts. In the Elgon region, planting was completed for more than 7 million seedlings out of 8.6millon allocated.

South Western region also commenced planting of the 6.5million coffee trees and so is Rwenzori region for more than 9million Arabica seedlings and 50,750 plantlets of Coffee Wild Disease clone.

“Countrywide, especially in central, western and northern regions, strong focus shifted to mobilizing farmers with idle land to plant coffee on commercial scale,” UCDA said.

This development comes  at the time the government has embarked on a new  aggressive strategy aimed at ensuring that the country exports at least 20 million 60-kilo bags of green coffee by 2025.

The government is looking at how to promote local consumption like it is in Ethiopia, which produces more coffee on the African continent.

“We’re first demystifying the myth that coffee makes people not to have sleep. So we have started a process where we bring experts from abroad who are medical people so that they explain that coffee actually has health benefits,” UCDA Managing Director, Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira told URN.

“We’re now coming to the institutions where we have formed university clubs and secondary schools where they appreciate that coffee is a good drink.

Lastly, we’re looking at how we can promote roasting in the country. We have been training youths, barristers how to serve a good cup of coffee. We have helped to generate many cafes around the corners of Kampala but also upcountry,” Iyamulemye added.

Uganda exports most of its coffee to the European Union, Sudan, USA, and India, with Robusta coffee accounting for 85% of the total exports.

Global perspective

Globally, coffee production in 2019/20 is estimated at 169.34 million bags, 2.2% lower than last year, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) September Coffee Market Report.

Output of Arabica decreased by 5% to 95.99 million bags, while that of Robusta rose by 1.9% to 73.36 million bags.

The report notes that the world coffee consumption is expected to decrease by 0.5% to 167.81 million bags as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on the global economy and greatly limit out-of- home coffee consumption.

As such, coffee year 2019/20 is seen ending in a surplus of 1.54 million bags. This compares to a surplus of 4.4 million bags in 2018/19.

The two consecutive surpluses have limited recovery in prices, which remain below the long-term average of 270US cents per kilogram between 2007 and 2018.

Trend of Uganda’s coffee export volumes and earnings

Year 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
Volume (60-kg bag in million) 3.24 3.56 4.2 4.5 4.4 5.36
Value (US$ millions)  403 352 490 492 $433.95 512.23

Source: UCDA