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Origin Focus - Uganda

Uganda At-A-Glance:

Production: Avg 5-6 million 60 Kg bags of coffee per year in the last eight years

Coffee Types: Large production of Robusta (around 80 %) & some Arabica (around 20%).

Coffee Harvest: The primary harvest in the Bugisu zone occurs from October to March, while the flycrop harvest occurs from May to July. The primary harvest in the West Nile occurs from October to January, while fly crop occurs from April to June. In total contrast to the other zones, the major harvest in Western Uganda occurs from April to July, while the fly crop occurs from October to January. Lastly, the central lowlands grow their main crop between November and February in addition to, harvesting a fly crop from May to August.

Source - UCDA

Key regions: The Bugisu zone, West Nile, Western Uganda, and the central lowlands

Other Key Facts:

An estimated 1.7 million households in Uganda cultivate coffee, with an average plot size of less than an acre. which indicates that stallholder growers provide the majority of the coffee produced. Smallholder farmers in Uganda produce more than 90% of the country's coffee. (World Coffee Research, Uganda Focus)

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Why Uganda maters

In terms of coffee production, Uganda comes in second place in Africa, behind Ethiopia, and eighth globally. The Robusta coffee plant is native to Uganda and is said to have originated in central and western Sub-Saharan Africa, with Robusta coffee growing wild around Lake Victoria. Uganda's largest export revenue-generating product is coffee. Although low-quality commercial beans make up the majority of Uganda's coffee production, small-scale growers have been successfully penetrating the specialty coffee market.

Crop Overview:

Robusta Coffee

The primary Robusta production regions are found 300 km around Lake Victoria, extending into western Uganda. The altitudes in these zones range from 900 to 1500 meters. The Rwenzori Mountains, which border the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the largest coffee-producing region.

Arabica Coffee

The higher altitude regions’ grow Arabica coffee and are between 1300 and 2300 meters above sea level. While it encompasses regions already described under the Robusta production, some regions are specifically designated for specialty coffee production, such as the steep regions of the Moon's peaks, a sizable portion of the West Nile region, and the crown jewel, the Bugisu.

The coffee growing regions are divided into:

● West Nile (Okoro - bordering on Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan in the North West)

● Northern Region (Lira, Gulu)

● Eastern (Mbale, Bugisu - bordering on Kenya)

● Central & Southwest (Jinja, Mukono, Kampala, Masaka - by Lake Victoria)

● Western Region (Kasese, Mbarara - also bordering Democratic Republic of Congo)

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Know your history of production.

According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Robusta coffee has already been growing naturally in the wild rainforests of Uganda for centuries, however, Arabica first came to Uganda through foreign settlers who came to East Africa. The first Arabica coffee plantation was established in 1914.

When Brazil's coffee supply was severely damaged by the frost in the 1970s, Ugandan coffee started to attract greater interest from buyers around the world. Throughout the 1980s, coffee remained Uganda's most significant cash crop. In 1986, when the National Resistance Movement seized power, it prioritized increasing coffee production, cutting down on coffee smuggled into neighboring countries, and diversifying export crops. As a result, the government brought an initiative to increase the price that producers were paid for their coffee. The Coffee Marketing Board, however, was unable to reimburse farmers for loans made for earlier purchases.

Ugandan Coffee Farms

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) was established in 1991 as part of the liberalization of the coffee sector which helped increase coffee exports exponentially. However, a widespread occurrence of coffee-wilt disease hampered Uganda's ability to produce coffee. Up to 45% of the robusta coffee trees in the country perished from coffee wilt disease by 2003. Exports thus had a sharp decline, going from 143,441 tons in 2000 to 122,369 tons in 2004. (Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) (1997-2003) 'Annual Report',)

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Modern Coffee Production

The previous few decades have seen a period of meteoric growth which has supported Uganda's impressive figures regarding coffee output. The Uganda Coffee Development Authority reports that between 2015 and 2018, the number of bags of coffee exported rose by 17% to 4.17 million (60 kg). Uganda's coffee sector reached a major milestone in June 2023 this year , when coffee exports brought in a record Shs330.5 billion.

Due to an increase of coffee shops around the nation and the changing trend of coffee consumption, Ugandans now consume more coffee locally every year. In Uganda, domestic coffee consumption has significantly increased, even if Uganda isn’t generally high coffee consuming nation. When compared to the same period in 2017/18, Uganda consumed only 244,800 bags (14,688MT) of coffee; nevertheless, in 2021/22, the country consumed 350,000 bags (21,000MT).

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA)

Recent Trends in Ugandan Coffee Sector

Ugandan Coffee Export has seen tremendous growth in the past few years with support from the government and the private sector in building various initiatives to increase the productivity and quality of the coffee exported from the country. Although the country is blessed with several high-elevation regions that have fertile farmlands, challenges with regard to weather conditions, Draught, and pest disease have affected both the export volumes and their quality. As a result of the civil war in neighboring countries like Sudan, which is the second largest destination of Ugandan exports, there has been decline in export to the country. This year Uganda registered a record in the highest export of coffee with 743,517: 60 Kg bags worth 121.64 million dollars in August 2023, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

The future of Ugandan Coffee looks bright with the international coffee industry changing its perceptions towards Robusta coffee which holds the highest volume of coffee export in the country and specialty arabica coffee continuing to be produced by Small-holder Ugandan farmers. The Ugandan Coffee RoadMap with nine key initiatives focused on Demand and value addition, production and access and enablers is expected to increase Uganda’s coffee production to 20 million bags in 2030, and triple the income of 1.2 million smallholder coffee farmers. The EUDR regulation however is expected to pose a challenge to the export numbers of producing nations like Uganda with a 90+ percent of coffee production coming from small-holder farmers, requiring recourses to ensure traceability and over compliance to the EUDR.

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