At last, a policy to guide coffee sector [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Uganda now has a National Coffee Policy. It was launched on December 6 during a ceremony at Kituuza National Coffee Research Institute in Mukono District.
State Minister for Agriculture, Prof Zerubabel Nyira, presided over the function, which attracted local government leaders, diplomats, Members of Parliament, traders, processors, representatives of coffee farmers' organisations, donor agencies, and other stakeholders.
The demand for a national policy was officially made during a coffee farmers' assembly organised by the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) held in 2008 in Kampala.
It has taken four years to prepare and it has come about at the time when there is widespread recognition that its long absence has substantially contributed to the stagnation in the cash crop's production.
ImportanceWhile Uganda was the leading producer of coffee in Africa at independence, in 1962, today it is second to Ethiopia. Yet this is the most important commercial agricultural crop in the country given that it accounts for 20 per cent of the total export revenue. And it offers direct and indirect employment to an estimated six million people.
Another observation is that by 1980, Vietnam produced no coffee, today it is said to be second to Brazil and is the world's top producer of Robusta coffee. We are facing stiffer competition in the market as more producers including India have come on board and so we must reorganise ourselves. An MP, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and a coffee farmer, Mathias Kasamba, remarked during the launch, "Whereas independent Uganda exported 2,158,736 million bags of 60kgs in 1964/1965, in 2012, Uganda still exported a mere 2.9 million 60 kg bags."
Since 1.3 million households depend on coffee for income, according to the 2008 Agriculture Census carried out by Uganda Bureau of Statistics, stagnation of production in that period meant stagnation in household incomes.Many factors are known to have contributed towards this sad position. They include the incurable coffee wilt disease (CWD), which has destroyed an estimated 200 million trees of Robusta coffee. Due to climate change, the country has experienced more incidents of drought, which have led to huge production deficits.
The population has grown rapidly, which has greater pressure on land usage in the struggle to grow food. The soil has been degraded as a result, yet farming, and in particular, coffee growing, is not attractive to youths who abandon rural areas and flock to towns taking their youthful energy into other often futile urban economic activities. Our government has not given sufficient budgetary allocation to agriculture and research; this has not helped the pest and disease control efforts in the coffee sector.
The promiseThere have been no strong laws governing production and to ensure good quality to make it more attractive on the export market and to attract high prices, which would motivate farmers.The National Coffee Policy will guide and regulate coffee production, beginning with the farmer through the entire value chain.
This is exactly what Henry Ngabirano, director, Uganda Coffee Development Authority, promised in his speech at Kituuza. He said, "The key aim of the policy is to lay a strong foundation for long-term competitiveness that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and also ensure that Uganda's coffee flourishes throughout the world. It will guide and regulate activities of various stakeholders in the coffee industry so as to improve on production, processing, marketing and roasting of coffee."
We expect to see law enforcement officers going out into the rural areas to inspect the way farmers harvest the crop and how they dry it to ensure quality to attract higher prices from the international buyers.
Way forwardIn the past, around independence, nearly all farmers observed hygienic post-harvest regulations of the crop but the spirit of this dropped with the collapse of cooperative unions in the later years.
Our current national aim is to produce 4.5 million bags annually by 2015 and, as MP Kasamba announced at the launch, the government has kick-started the process by providing 100 million coffee seedlings to rural farmers. About 100 MPs have joined in the initiative to promote the crop and the northern part of Uganda has come on board having been discovered to have the potential for producing Robusta coffee.
There is increased mobilisation of the coffee farmers to form associations and cooperatives at parish level, sub-county and district levels so as to strengthen their capacities.
Indeed, it was a farmers' organisation, Nucafe, that demanded formulation of a national policy in 2008. Vice chairman, Cyprian Bangirana, has called upon the government to speed up the formation of a financial institution, which is friendly to the coffee farmer whose crop takes years to earn profit.
How to do it :Aspects of the coffee policySetting National Coffee StandardsUganda National Coffee Standards will be reviewed, and developed where needed, to apply to all stages of the coffee value chain. The standards shall be in harmony with the proposed coffee law and International Standards where appropriate. Enforcement of the standards will be the responsibility of government, with strong support from stakeholders, private and public. The coffee standards shall include food safety clauses to ensure Ugandan coffee meets food safety requirements in consumer countries.
Intra-institutional co-ordinationThere is a need for an institutional framework to address co-ordination of various organisations involved in the coffee sub-sector, that is, Local Government, NAADS, and NARO etc. This inter-institutional co-ordination shall be a function of UCDA. The Ministry responsible for agriculture shall maintain a supervisory role on Local Governments to ensure that coffee growing is undertaken as per policy guidelines.
Establishment of a Coffee Research Trust Fund (CRTF)Government shall establish a coffee research trust to ensure sustainable funding to the coffee research. The sources of funds into the CRTF shall be the coffee cess (a possibility of increasing it from the current maximum of 1% to a level of 2 or 3% shall be explored), government appropriation, and contributions from the private sector and development partners. This fund shall be managed in line with Government financial management systems.
Infrastructure and support servicesThe NCP is not a stand-alone policy. It will depend on other sector/sub sector policies and their implementation. These include, transport, energy, water for production and agricultural finance.
RoadsThe road network in most coffee growing areas is inaccessible during most of the year. The central and local governments shall ensure that roads are maintained to facilitate movement of extension and training staff, inputs and coffee.
EnergyEnergy is needed in coffee processing to enable farmers add value. The government's Rural Electrification programme has increased coverage of hydroelectricity, but the costs remains high. Government will continue to increase coverage especially where farmers will wish to install coffee hullers and wet coffee processing mills.
Water for productionIrrigation in Uganda remains constrained by the cost of irrigation infrastructure. The policy provides for the promotion of irrigation where water catchment areas are near to farmers and affordable in cost terms. Government will particularly promote gravity schemes as a cheap source of irrigation.
Institutional roles and responsibilitiesThis matrix outlines the generic roles and responsibilities for institutions at all levels in the implementation of the National Coffee Policy.
-Excerpts from the National Coffee Policy
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