New EU regulation spells doom for Ugandan exports

A coffee farmer receives fertilizers in Iganga District on December 12, 2023. Second right is UCDA Eastern Uganda manager Mike Maliro. PHOTO/PHILIP WAFULA

What you need to know:

  • About 60 per cent of Ugandan coffee goes to the EU in addition to the United States, Sudan and West Africa.

The European Union (EU) has come up with a regulation that will see Ugandan coffee, cotton, cocoa, palm oil and soya grown in forested areas rejected, Monitor has learnt.

This is contained in the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) 2023, released last month, which aims at stopping the rampant deforestation which is impacting negatively on the climate across the globe.

According to the document, between 1990 and 2008, EU consumption was responsible for 10 per cent of deforestation worldwide; therefore, maintaining forests is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining biodiversity.

The document further states that deforestation is central to EU international commitments, including the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Sustainable Development Goals, New York Declaration of Forests and UN Strategic Plan for Forests.

An official from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) says the regulation states that “no product, be it maize, but specifically now for coffee, will be allowed in the EU unless there is proof that it is deforestation-free and legal.”

“This implies that all coffee that was planted after December 31, 2020 must be proven that that field was not deforested before planting coffee,” noted UCDA Eastern Uganda manager Mike Maliro.

According to Maliro, even if that coffee is included in a particular lot, the EU has mandate to know if it was planted in a deforested area, and it will be rejected.

Deforestation”, according to the EUDR, is a forest that has been converted to agricultural use, whether human-induced or not after December 31, 2020, or the plot of land is not a “forest”, where more than 50 per cent of the land as at December 31, 2020 was used for agricultural production.

“Legal” on the other hand means the products must be produced in line with the relevant laws of the country of production.

Subsequently, Maliro says Uganda is prepared to comply with the EU regulations with UCDA now registering coffee farmers across the country, including their coffee fields.

“GeoMaps are being generated with coordinates to show how big one’s coffee farm is, what is expected from the field and so on. So, there is no way you can deceive,” he further explained last week.

Speaking to Monitor, Maliro added that the EU is supporting the country to make sure we register all coffee farmers across the country so that once registered, the buyer is able to know and trace where that coffee is coming from, even in a particular batch.

Maliro says 60 per cent of Ugandan coffee goes to the EU in addition to the United States, Sudan and West Africa.

“Since the bulk goes to the EU, we have to abide by the regulation or lose market and our farmers will have nowhere to sell their coffee, implying a price drop,” Maliro observed last week.

Asked how much revenue Uganda stands to lose, Maliro says: “For example, we are exporting about eight million bags; so, what is 60 per cent of eight million bags? It is a lot of money.