KAMPALA: Farmers and sellers of coffee in the greater Masaka sub-region are against the plan to merge the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries. They say that this will hurt the growth of the coffee industry.
In a joint statement they read at the 8th International Coffee Day celebration in Masaka district’s Buwunga sub-county on Wednesday, the farmers said that the government plays a very important role in the coffee development chain and that it wouldn’t make sense to take away its semi-autonomous status right now.
In February of last year, the Cabinet approved recommendations to merge, mainstream, and rationalize government agencies, commissions, authorities, and public enterprises. The goal was to get rid of structural ambiguities, functional duplication, overlaps, and wasteful spending to save money in the short and long term.
The process started with merging the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), whose functions and budget were reverted to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. But leaders of Greater Masaka Coffee, led by Fred Mukasa Luzinda, say that the planned merger of UCDA and UCCA will make it harder for the country to reach its goal of producing 20 million bags of coffee by 2025, up from 8.4 million bags now.
In addition to regulating coffee quality for export, UCDA is also in charge of promoting innovations that add value to coffee and making sure farmers get quality inputs and services from the outside.
But the people who work in the coffee industry are worried that once they merge, the authority will be less effective, which will make room for more speculators who will mess up the whole coffee value chain by lowering quality from the seedlings all the way through production, putting the international market at risk.
The coffee farmers and dealers also challenge the government to make deliberate efforts to address the prevailing challenges that frustrate the preferred expansion of the coffee sector. They would rather see the government expand its coffee research and extension services to deal with the problems that frustrate coffee farmers and limit their ability to make coffee.
Luzinda says that their average annual coffee yield per tree is 1.7 kilograms of unprocessed coffee. However, many farmers are not meeting expectations due to a mix of problems, such as pests and diseases that keep coming back and farmers not being able to afford quality inputs.
Dr. Abed Bwanika, who is a member of parliament for Masaka City’s Kimanya-Kabonera division, wants the government to give UCDA more power to help it do its job better instead of putting it under the Ministry of Agriculture, which is already overworked and not very good at getting things done.
In his reply, the government chip whip, David Hampson Obua, said that he had heard the farmers’ concerns and demands and asked them to make them official so that he could bring them to the attention of the right people.
The Managing Director of the UCDA, Dr. Emmanuel Lyamulemye, said that the country’s coffee production and exports have gotten a lot better, and he asked everyone to work on expanding coffee growth in all parts of the country.
According to him, returns at UCDA indicate that last year, the country exported 6.3 million bags of coffee, the highest volume ever recorded in the history of the country. This represents a 75% increment compared to the previous year.
In his speech, Buganda’s Katikiro, Charles Peter Mayiga, told communities that the current problems shouldn’t stop them from growing coffee. He said that there are clear signs that the sector will keep getting better.