UGANDA – Researchers in Uganda’s coffee sector believe farmers can increase their share of the final market price for their commodities only if they add value to the product.

The country’s coffee exports in November 2022 amounted to 447,162 60-kilo bags worth US$64.14 million (Shs238.3bn), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has revealed in its November 2022 report.

The export comprised 364,875 bags of Robusta valued at US $45.38 million and 82,287 bags of Arabica valued at US$18.76 million, a decrease of 14.97% and 9.94% in quantity and value respectively compared to the same month last year.

By comparing the quantity of coffee exported by type in the same month of last Coffee Year (November 2021), Robusta decreased by 16.58% and 11.96% in quantity and value respectively, while Arabica exports also decreased by 7.02% and 4.65% in quantity, and value respectively.

The report adds that the decrease in exports was mainly attributed to lower yields in 2022 that were characterized by drought in most regions for the second consecutive year, leading to increased incidences of pests and diseases such as the Coffee Twig Borer and red blister disease.

The history of adding value to coffee in Uganda is not that well documented, although there were rudimentary ways of roasting to add value rather than selling green beans.

According to published data, over 95 percent of the total annual coffee production is exported as secondary processed green beans sorted into various coffee grades that meet international standards.

The cost of processing coffee into finished and ready-to-consume products contributes to the reason there are few players in the coffee value addition chain and explains the low domestic coffee consumption, which stands at about 3–5 percent of Uganda’s total annual production.

Considering that fresh coffee cherries can deteriorate in quality if not stored properly, the research recommends that farmers be motivated to add value to their fresh cherries as a risk management strategy.

However, the researchers argue that inadequate roasting equipment and packaging materials, coupled with the high cost of purchasing equipment, explain why Ugandans in the coffee sector are not maximizing revenue from the crop.

Currently, there are only about 12 registered domestic roasters, with an increase in the number of players in the value-addition chain to over 20 companies, according to UCDA. Three roasters are located in the eastern Bugisu area of Mt. Elgon and process Arabica coffees.

At the same time, the International Growth Centre Paper on the Ugandan Arabica coffee value chain opportunities says improving market positioning and pricing means working with larger roasters to improve the awareness of Ugandan coffee and, in turn, influence their consumers.

The paper recommends creating a single Ugandan coffee brand to carry the identity of Uganda’s coffee, which would raise end-consumer awareness of Uganda as a source of high-value Arabica, and over time help differentiate Uganda from its regional competitors.

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