Tuesday February 27 2018

Uganda improves in coffee production

A farmer dries coffee recently. According to

A farmer dries coffee recently. According to José Dauster Sette, the executive director of the International Coffee Organisation, Uganda has recorded an increase in coffee production while the rest of Africa has suffered low productivity. FILE PHOTO 

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

José Dauster Sette, the executive director of the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) has hailed Uganda’s efforts to improve coffee production on the international market. Prosper Magazine’s Dorothy Nakaweesi, spoke to him on a number of coffee-related issues. Below are the excerpts.

What is the perception of Uganda’s coffee on the international market?
Uganda is primarily a producer of Robusta coffee, which is a low-grade coffee used for the production of instant and soluble coffee.
However, in the past few years, the country has been recognised as a producer of fine grade Arabica coffee.

What is the difference in these coffees?
Robusta is generally considered to be low quality, which comes with a low price quotation but they are very suitable in the production of instant coffee, which is a very important part of the coffee market because instant coffee is the way in which you transition tea drinking to coffee drinking.
It is very easy to prepare, which makes it easy for the country to become part of a culture as the market moves into more sophisticated consumption of various coffee varieties. Therefore, instant coffee plays a very important role when it comes to initiating new consumers into the coffee consumption fold.

From your observation, do you think as Uganda we are doing enough on the world market?
I cannot comment much about Uganda’s performance on the world market. My main interest here is about the coffee road map, which Uganda has drawn for the future of the country’s coffee production.
In general, Africa has suffered a lot over the last 20 years because of competition, internal economic problems and social problems.
However, Uganda is an exception to this. Uganda and Ethiopia have seen increases in production while the rest of Africa has suffered low productivity. So Uganda is already doing something right and this new plan is likely to increase production by more than four times in a relatively short time.

So what do you think are some of the key issues that Uganda must work on to consolidate production?
There is no one magical solution or silver bullet. Uganda has to do a series of actions to improve production, part of which is paying attention to quality, easier access to finance for people in the value chain, empower women because they head coffee growing households and developing research capacity and availing varieties, among others.

The coffee road map seems to be too ambitious. Do you think we can triple production in the next four years?
This is a question that I think the authourities have to analyse in detail. However, it is unique to have goals because they are important.
Sometimes even if they are over ambitious, they motivate people into striving to get somewhere.
So, the most important factor is the authorities and the Ugandan coffee sector, which have this belief in coffee as the future and I think there is space in the international market for Uganda to place its production.

Is there any country we can emulate?
Looking at the countries that have achieved high levels of productivity such as Brazil and Columbia, which are at a different economic level, they have a different history in terms of the evolution of coffee. So they may not be the most appropriate models. However, others such as Honduras, among others have increased their production in the past few years through targeted plans and research.
These can be a better model for Uganda. However, as I said they had no any magical solution.
The best part is to pick out the best features of each country that has achieved success and adopt them for local conditions because you can’t just simply transplant foreign models and impose them elsewhere.

How can Uganda sufficiently add value to its coffee so that it can enjoy international markets?
This is a very difficult process and even countries that are more powerful in producing coffee such as Brazil and Columbia have great difficulties in adding value to coffee by selling directly to consumers in overseas markets. What we recommend is as a first step we should develop the internal market. This has several advantages because it creates more competition for farmers, increases demand for quality, and creates knowhow as well as adding value to the country.
Therefore, this is not a simple process for a country like Uganda that still has a low purchasing power. The first step we recommend is to build a sufficient domestic market through which stakeholders build capacity to serve the international market.

What impact does bumper production in markets like Brazil have on small producers such as Uganda?
I believe the market has already absorbed and put into consideration the future market expectation of a big crop harvest. So the room for prices to fall below expectation is usually limited.

Anything we have not talked about?
I believe I have seen some good progress here. This is my second visit to Uganda and the last time I was here, which is almost 10 years ago, there has been some improvements. Uganda is among the biggest African coffee producing countries. It has been following a successful path and good things are happening. I believe the results of the ambitious plan (Coffee Road Map 2025) will increase production.

EMULATING
Looking at the countries that have achieved high levels of productivity such as Brazil and Columbia, which are at a different economic level, they have a different history in terms of the evolution of coffee. So they may not be the most appropriate models.
However, others such as Honduras, among others have increased their production in the past few years through targeted plans and research.

These can be a better model for Uganda. However, as I said they had no any magical solution.
The best part is to pick out the best features of each country that has achieved success and adopt them for local conditions because you can’t just simply transplant foreign models and impose them elsewhere.

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