Data released by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) indicates coffee export volumes have grown by 300,000. Small as it may seem, this increment translates to an increase in earnings from Shs1.2 trillion ($315 million) last year to Shs1.8 trillion ($472million) in the 2018/19 coffee calendar year running to September. In this period, the commodity exported 4.8 million bags compared to 4.5 million bags in the same period a year ago.
With the Uganda National Coffee Strategy Plan for 2015-2020 putting expected production at 5.8 million bags by the year 2020, this trend feeds well into government’s larger plan which seeks to reach 20 million bags per annum by the year 2020, an almost seventy seven per cent increase going by the current numbers with Uganda projected to earn at least $1.1billion, making coffee the second highest foreign exchange earner, after tourism, which rakes in $1.5billion, a goal many a critic consider too ambitious. Since 2015 however, the value and volume of coffee exports have seen a steady rise with the conducive weather and an increase in the number of households growing the crop playing a major role in this. Approximately 1.8 million Ugandan households are involved in coffee production, eighty per cent of whom grow the robusta variety.
Uganda remains the second largest producer and exporter of coffee in Africa, annually exporting approximately 4.8 million bags (288,000 metric tonnes) with Ethiopia’s 6.4 million bags (384,000 metric tonnes) still the largest on the continent.
Already, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority has projected output in the 2018/19 season to increase to more than five million bags with current market and weather conditions already sending the right signals. Coffee processors affirm that the country could get much more than what it is currently earning from its coffee exports if it pushed for value addition and branding. More production of the Arabica variety will also tap into this less exploited market.
It is now down to all the stake holders to do everything possible to combat the usual setbacks of pests, diseases, storage and processing in order to achieve these set goals.