Do Or Die: Why Ugandan Farmers Need The Coffee Bill Signed Into Law

Parliament last year introduced the National Coffee Bill, 2018, which aimed at streamlining coffee growing in Uganda, help farmers in value addition, and easily getting available markets for their produce.

As such, the urgency for Parliament to pass the National Coffee Bill, 2018 into law is imperative. This is because Coffee plays a leading role in the livelihoods of many Ugandans and contributes substantially to the national economy.

Coffee has been linked to poverty reduction with poverty levels lower in periods when coffee prices are high and vice-versa.
Coffee farmers need a law to regulate the sector

Indeed 42% of all farming households in Uganda grow some coffee and coffee has been annually contributing an average of 30% to the country’s foreign exchange earnings.

Coffee has been linked to poverty reduction with poverty levels lower in periods when coffee prices are high and vice-versa.

Time factor has a direct linkage between coffee performance and macro-economic performance, particularly the exchange rate and inflation.

It is in this context that the strategies set out in the Ugandan Coffee Bill 2018 have to be operationalised urgently by
passing the bill into law.

Implementing the Coffee Bill provisions even without expanding the current coffee acreage, the existing coffee plantations can yield the target 20 million bags annual export within the shortest possible time.

In other words, the same households producing the current 4.5 million bags annually can multiply that yield five times and even exceed the 20 million bags export target.

The Bill provides among other things, the setting up of Research facilities and once such coffee research laboratories are set up as envisaged under the bill, soils of the existing coffee plantations shall be subjected to scientific research scrutiny and the inadequacy in the soil nutrients shall be identified. This will help farmers apply the appropriate fertilizers and those very nutrients shall be supplied to the farmers by the government.

This shall push the same coffee plantation to yield several times possibly as much as five times over and above the previous harvests done without the application of appropriate scientifically researched fertilizers.

This feat has been realised elsewhere, especially in the Netherlands, a quarter of whose soil is salty, thus on the face of it condemned as an unworthy for Agriculture.

However, by applying research on these
soils and identifying appropriate scientifically researched fertilizers, the Netherlands have turned their tiny country of low-lying delta region into the most intensive, sustainable and efficient agricultural nation of the world.

It is a deliberate policy of the Netherlands to lab-test the soil at the beginning of the growing season, and identify fertilizers essential to that type of soil. The farmer would then be supplied with the fertilizers composed of the right content for that particular soil, leading to the targeted harvest yield.

It is this agricultural practice that has enabled the Netherlands, only a ninth of the size of Uganda, to become the world’s second exporter of agricultural products after the USA.

For instance, the Netherlands in 2017 alone exported Agricultural products worth US$270Bn, which is 10 times the economy of Uganda. So by applying the same principles in Uganda, the Uganda Coffee Industry
will certainly experience the same Agricultural boom which has pushed the Netherlands to top world levels.

Uganda need not reinvent the wheel. Uganda and Netherlands can negotiate a Bilateral Agreement on Agricultural Scientific applications, whereby the Netherlands shall transfer their Agricultural technology to Uganda.

This will make it possible to transform the income of 41% of the Uganda household currently engaged in some form of coffee farming to achieve a fivefold yield from the same current plantation.

Thus, in just two years once the appropriate enabling law in the name ‘Uganda Coffee Bill 2018’ is put in place, the 20 million target bags export will not only be realized but also push the household incomes of 41% of Ugandans to beyond the middle-income World Bank categorisation.

It should be noted that the issue of the day is not the expansion of the current coffee acreage, although this might be part of the exercise; the paramount the challenge is how to turn the current plantations producing export crop of 4.5 million bags a year to 20 million bags within a period of just two years.

As demonstrated above, this can be done once the appropriate law has been put in place by passing the Uganda Coffee Bill into law.

By 2050 the world population will be nine billion people. Uganda must therefore gear up to supply that huge world market since as we know, coffee as a beverage will continue to be consumed by the world population for years to come.

Supplying that huge population shall catapult Uganda not only to middle-income status but to a world coffee power, proudly sitting side by side with other top world producers like Brazil and Italy.

NAADS Ready To Boost Coffee Farming

The National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) is one of the government bodies that were put in place to help Ugandan coffee farmers boost production.

The Executive Director of the National Agriculture and Advisory Services (NAADS) Dr Samuel Mugasi s revealed last year that the body has introduced a new model where farmers are to acquire coffee seedlings at the district level, in a move aimed at boosting agricultural production in Uganda.

For long, the Agricultural body has been bogged with complaints from farmers who have accused NAADS of supplying not only poor quality seedlings but also failing to meet the demands of their respective areas.

However, Mugasi said the new development will be critical at solving the many challenges they have been facing in the procurement process, adding that as opposed to early days when NAADs heavily relied on few nurseries in strategic districts that forced the entity to procure seedlings from different districts, the new model with help solve challenges of late delivery and poor quality seeds that characterised the older system.

“We are going to make sure that these seedlings are procured in districts so that we minimize to transporting seedlings for long distances and it will help solve the problem of late delivery because we have to load and transport. It will also help solve the problem of quality because if you transport these seedlings as living things, the more you load them for transportation, they more they get stressed and lose the quality. We shall also avoid the problem of delivering things that haven’t been requested for,” Mugisha explained.

According to the NAADS Chief, districts are required to submit their three-year projections of what they want to plant and this will give seedling operators the opportunity to only raise what has been requested for.

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