East Africa state Uganda, one of the largest producers of coffee is on the verge of transforming the agricultural sector in the next three years. Already, there are initiatives to increase the coffee beans exports to five times by 2020.
Not only are they looking at that but on a production level, the country will involve farmers in intensive training sessions to steadily improve quality that will form the basis of a coffee auction by early next year.
The target for 2020 is 20 million bags and is also the year the government hopes Uganda enters the category of middle-income countries.
In 2016, Uganda exported 4.2 million bags of coffee out of the five million produced which was a 0.6% increase from 3.6 million exported in 2015.
Industry regulator, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), is going to offer skills training to select coffee farmers across the country ahead of the annual Taste of Harvest competition which is aimed at promoting high quality coffee production.
However before then, the UCDA will take an estimated 300 people including coffee producers, exporters, processors and roasters through a three-day training session beginning August 23.
Edmund Kananura, the UCDA Director of Quality and Regulatory Services, told a news conference early this week, participants will learn how to prepare and process high quality specialty coffee beans. This will enable them to prepare to participate in the competition.
The competition is scheduled to take place between January 22 and 26 next year. For the first time ever, Uganda will also hold a coffee auction.
“Interested farmers will submit their best coffee samples for grading and the grading will be determined by specialists known as Q and R graders. The coffee that will scores above 80 points will be considered to be specialty coffee and will automatically attract good market and better prices,” Kananura said.
He said, “We plan to start with small quantities. We shall start with 30 participants each with at least 10 to 50 bags ready which will then be delivered to a warehouse. We are putting the standards high so that we can present the best of the best.”
Kananura said Uganda’s potential for specialty coffee is high, with up to 20% of the country’s present volume of exported coffee currently passing the mark of specialty.
UCDA says as a result of previous training sessions, coffee growing areas such as Kanungu, Sipi, Iganga and Luweero have managed to produce coffee that meets international standards and is competitive on the world market.
Kananura said the government is undertaking several other initiatives such as applying simple irrigation technologies and setting up demonstration farms all geared towards improving quality.
Ishak Lukenge, the Chairman African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) advised farmers to organize themselves in cooperatives in order to eliminate middlemen.
Lukenge said the forthcoming auction is an opportunity for farmers to not only boost their quality, but also incomes and expand their market share.