Coffee farmers must fight low prices

Saturday June 8 2019

Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

The coffee harvest season has begun in much of southern Uganda and farmers are already grumbling about the low prices at which the coffee is bought from them.
A kilogramme of dry Robusta coffee that is not yet husked costs between Shs1,500 and Shs2,000 at the moment.
Most smallholder farmers sell their coffee right in their homes to traders before it is husked.

The traders take it to coffee huller factories where it is husked and the beans are sold at between Shs4,300 and Shs4,600 to other traders who sell it to exporters at higher prices and finally the crop ends up overseas where other traders and manufacturers turn it into coffee powder that is sold in supermarkets.
Coffee shop and restaurant owners buy the powder to sell cups of coffee to drinkers. Coffee is said to be the most traded commodity in the world after oil.

On my way to the US in 1997, I ordered for a cup of coffee at the airport in Brussels, Belgium and I had to pay ten dollars.
Yet only one or two spoonfuls of the powder had been used to make my cup of coffee. As a coffee grower myself I had sold a kilogramme of husked coffee at slightly over a dollar here in Uganda.
A BBC magazine dated May 28 2019 reported about a coffee shop in San Francisco in the US that charges $75 for a cup of coffee.
Our coffee farmers must wake up to the fact that as producers of the crop we own it and it should be us to determine our selling price. The geographical conditions in Brussels and San Francisco don’t easily permit the farming of coffee.

It requires the cooperation of our government to form strong farmers organisations and to edge out exploitative middlemen that cheat farmers. The farmers must take the best care of the crop to come up with a very attractive product.
Producer countries of the crop must strive to stop selling it as raw material to the industrialised countries and eventually consider the option of manufacturing and selling packed coffee powder to the world.