A lot has been said about the proposed coffee Bill. Among the contentious issues are registration of coffee farmers. Mr Nyombi Thembo, penned his views in The New Vision of July 24, arguing that registration of farmers is not the same as licensing them. Well, we all can accept that registration is not licensing, but then, what will be the meaning and use of registration? Will it mean that a coffee farmer, who is not registered, will not be allowed to grow and subsequently sell coffee? Can this work? If not, then why waste time on something which is not workable? Is it necessary to put registration in a law?
I thought this would just be an operational procedure, where Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) would register coffee farmers whom it will help by providing extension services and inputs? Why register a coffee farmer who is not interested, and for whom UCDA does not provide any support whatsoever? Even when we know that registration will be free, many coffee farmers can easily be dissuaded from growing the crop if, as it may turn out, URA uses this kind of register to demand taxes from farmers.
On penalties, the draft law says a farmer can be imprisioned for neglecting a coffee farm! Surely, how can this be? Since when did someone neglecting his/her business become an offence subject to imprisonment? In which world are we living? If one no longer has interest in coffee growing for any reason, how does that become the concern of the State to imprison him/her?
Is Uganda a dictatorship that forces people to do businesses that they do no longer want? Are we moving back to the colonial days when people were forced to grow things like cotton to feed the British factories? Does the government have the capacity to find out who has neglected his coffee farm? But what does neglecting mean?
This is the real fear that was expressed by the Katikkiro of Buganda. Farmers can very easily ignore growing coffee if laws that are not well thought out are enacted, and this is what the Katikkiro said. Buganda and Buganda Kingdom are key stakeholders in coffee growing. Therefore, it is unfortunate for the president to simply rubbish their comments!
It is also not wise for people to make comment without digesting the matter. Coffee has been grown in Uganda for a long time, so it will be unfortunate growing the crop can easily be derailed by laws that are not well-thought out. In short, do not make a law which cannot be enforced.