For long, the coffee sector has been consistently sailing through challenges of stagnant production and declining productivity, leaving the country with less foreign exchange earnings.
But significant improvement could be attained through a collective stimulation of domestic consumption.
Joseph Nkandu, executive director, National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe), says the e low levels of domestic coffee consumption remains detrimental to the growth of the sector.
This is because it is not supportive of local investment in infrastructure for value addition.
Figures from Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) indicates that 2.7 million bags of coffee worth $393m (Shs1.02t) were produced and sold in 2012. Last year, 3.58 million bags valued at $433m (Shs1.13t) were produced.
Borrow a leaf
Coffee production in Uganda, according to UCDA, has stagnated at around three million bags per year over the last 40 years. Only about three per cent of this is consumed locally.
“We need to work with government to boost the level at which our processed coffee is locally consumed. If more coffee is consumed domestically, it will encourage players into processing,” Nkandu notes. “There is a significant amount of revenue that will be locally generated in addition to that accruing from exports.”
He made the remarks at the Third National Forum on Agriculture and Food Security, which was held in Kampala.
The forum was organised by Economic Policy Research Centre to brief stakeholders in the agricultural sector about the potential of coffee production in northern Uganda.
Nkandu advised that Uganda needs to borrow a leaf from Brazil where domestic consumption is at 50 per cent.
Target the young
This was achieved after government linked with the private sector to promote consumption especially among the young population.
He explained: “In Uganda, where coffee processing technology is not advanced, a kilogramme of green coffee costs around Shs4,000 and when processed into roasted and ground coffee, it produces not less than 80 cups. Each sells at a minimum of Sh4,000 meaning that a lot is lost in selling raw coffee.”
Henry Ngabirano, executive director, UCDA, while speaking to journalists recently, revealed that the Authority is encouraging more Ugandans to take coffee through implementing a domestic coffee consumption strategy.
The organisation is doing this through road shows, and local and international exhibitions.
For the latter, the aim is to attract more investments in the sector through linking international companies to local coffee dealers. Now, more than 160 companies have contacts in Uganda.
Ngabirano, however, noted that much as there are gaps in promoting coffee consumption, there is a ray of hope. A case he pointed out is that in 2004, there were only eight coffee shops in Uganda but the number has grown to more than 80.
Mathias Kasamba, chairperson, parliamentary committee on agriculture, promised that his committee will ensure the recently launched National Coffee Policy is implemented to enable it deliver benefits to the sector.
Coffee remains the country’s most important agricultural commodity and the major foreign exchange earner. It has been contributing an annual average of 20 per cent of the total export revenue for the last 10 years.
coffee’s place in uganda
Coffee has been contributing an annual average of 20 per cent of Uganda’s total export revenue for the last decade, with over 1.5 million households involved in production.
The yields standing at 2,500kg per hectare for clonal coffee, 700kg per hectare for Robusta coffee and 600kg per hectare for Arabica coffee.