Not all coffee farmers clearly understand the journey their crop takes when it leaves their farms. To most of them it is a crop they produce to get money. Others grow it because different local leaders have told them to do so as a way of getting them out of poverty.
The farmers want coffee prices to rise every now and again so that they get more money although they have no control over the crop’s prices.
Hardly do they know that they are the producers of a very important crop on which their country heavily depends for foreign exchange and which is also the second most traded commodity in the world after oil.
Coffee is actually a food commodity and when it leaves the farm gate its journey ends in a coffee cup at a table either here in Uganda or overseas.
Most of the rich, industrialised, countries do not grow coffee due to their geographical location yet they are the greatest consumers of the commodity. We happen to be located in the Tropics where conditions are favourable for growing coffee.
How much, then, are we doing to take advantage of the fact that we produce a commodity so much desired by the rich countries which cannot easily produce it themselves?
As a coffee producer, Uganda is ranked second after Ethiopia in Africa and tenth in the world.
According to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) coffee contributes between 20-30 per cent of foreign exchange earnings and provides employment to some five million Ugandans.
But we can increase our earnings from coffee by not only planting more coffee trees but by also improving the quality of our product.
We need to realize that we are in competition with other producers who pay a lot of attention to good production practices like harvesting only red ripe coffee cherries, drying the coffee thoroughly on clean mats or coffee drying racks, and ensuring that it carries no foreign objects and smells.
Since coffee is food all its handlers, particularly the farmers, transporters, and processors, must take all due care to preserve its quality and safety to consumers.