Prioritise coffee farming

Author: Mr Michael J. Ssali. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

"It is impossible for our country to be wallowing in poverty when it is so well endowed”

Uganda is said to be the birthplace of Robusta Coffee. Nature has gifted our country with a favourable climate for producing the crop and it is upon us to take advantage of this most wonderful gift. And, unknown to very many people, coffee is the most traded commodity in the world after oil. Uganda is the leading coffee producer in Africa and it is the eighth leading producer of the crop in the world. 
Most fortunately for us, Uganda is endowed with both coffee and oil, which means we should be among the leading economies in the world. It is impossible for our country to be wallowing in poverty when it is so well endowed. Something must be done urgently to turn things round.

About 1.7 million households in Uganda are engaged in coffee farming and close to five million people are employed in coffee related activities according to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (Robusta Coffee Handbook). 
At the moment coffee production is considered to be the best route out of poverty for most people, which is why nowadays most of our leaders are telling more and more people to take up coffee farming. 

Our target, according to the National Coffee Roadmap, is to increase production of the crop from the current figure of 4.6 million bags to 20 million bags by the year 2025. 
As you read this column there is all the evidence to prove that more and more land is being cleared for planting coffee in all the coffee growing districts of the country. 
Robusta coffee growing is also being introduced in parts of the country that were traditionally believed to be unsuitable for coffee production. The paradox however is that while more smallholder farmers are encouraged to plant coffee, the national strategy is to expand commercial coffee farmers from the current 10 percent to 65 percent and to reduce smallholders from 85 percent to 20 percent by 2040 (Robusta Coffee Handbook).
And there is every reason nowadays for people with some sizeable amount of land to go into coffee production.  

It is a perennial crop from which coffee berries can be harvested every year for decades. 
This makes it a quite reliable source of income for the household every year, all things being equal – if there is sufficient rainfall, if the agronomy is done right and if harvesting and post-harvest handling is good. 

Mr Michael Ssali is a veteran journalist, 
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