Quality mars Uganda coffee

KAMPALA, UGANDA - Land fragmentation and the failure by many coffee farmers to maintain high standards, has hampered development of Uganda’s coffee sub –sector to better levels of prosperity. 

Recently the African Coffee Academy (ACA) organized a Quality Management System/ Sanitary and Phytosanitary training workshop for coffee exporters, processors and farmers during which this viewpoint was put across.

Jimmy Okello, the ACA Quality Analysis officer said the acreage of land under coffee production in Uganda is declining due to land fragmentation caused by population pressure. 

“Uganda as country has the capacity to produce enough coffee like other African countries, but the challenge is that land fragmentation in all the coffee growing regions in the country. Coffee farmers should stop dividing their lands into small plots this will enable the country to progress in coffee production,” he said. 

The objective of the training was to create awareness about international Sanitary and PhytoSanitary requirements and implications on the local coffee value chain actors.  Basically these requirements have to do with maintaining strict levels of cleanliness in all areas of the industry.

Another objective for the workshop was to build capacity of middlemen, millers and exporters to give effective feedback to coffee farmers and suppliers on the issues of QMS and SPS. 

Making some comparisons, Okello said 10 years ago, Uganda was performing better than countries like Vietnam. But today Vietnam has left Uganda behind in terms of Robusta coffee exports. He also highlighted that farmland in Vietnam has not been affected by land fragmentation as the case in Uganda.

According to the sector report on coffee issued by the agriculture ministry, Uganda’s coffee latest annual exports range between 2.5mt to 3mt. Vietnam currently exports 10mt to12mt.

Okello said many farmers are still using traditional methods in harvesting and drying coffee cherries.  This compromises the agreed provisions of the international market and formalized by the World Trade Organization ( WTO) PhytoSanitary requirements.

Okello explained that noncompliance with the WTO requirements will result in loss of market because of public health considerations.

To ensure that  the whole world  does not consume  food which is risky to the live of the humans animal and the Environment , WTO member countries set up  Sanitary or Phytosanitary( SPS measures  which  all intending exporters of agricultural related products should meet  to ensure food safety worldwide but  despite the existence of such standards which regulates the trade of food related items many countries like Uganda  has been sported as one of the countries which is not implementing some of the measure  and this may affects its  ability to sale agricultural related products on the international market 

“The success of any country’ s international food trade is largely depend on its domestic food trade sanitary and phytosanitary standards and practice are of vital to any food trade SPS measure have become vital due to food trade globalization. Thus for Uganda s domestic and international food trade to be successful, her SPS practices have to be implemented  so as to produce quality and safe food to the market place,” he said. 

Presenting a paper on Coffee Quality Management System for coffee exporters in Uganda the Executive Director of the Coffee Academy Godfrey Batte  said coffee, like other food items, must be handled with quality and standards in mind  throughout the value chain.

 “On occasion, our coffee has been getting contaminated by hazards like biological,  physical ,chemicals and environmental , especially during storage transportation and even during handling our value chain players in the coffee sub- sector should take serious precautions when handling coffee as it is the only to maintain the quality standard of Uganda coffee,” he said. 

To limit those aspects that hurt the local coffee industry, Batte advised the sector players  to use the integrated pests management approach  and adopt proper drying methods like using raised beds. He said this will lower the chances of the country’s cash crop from getting contaminated and losing international market share.