Coffee farmers and dealers in the greater Masaka sub-region are opposed to the proposed merging of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority-UCDA under the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries arguing that it will undermine the growth of the coffee sector.
In their joint statement presented at the 08th commemoration of the International Coffee Day held in Buwunga sub-county, Masaka district on Wednesday, the farmers observed that the authority plays a very vital role in the coffee development chain, arguing that it is illogical to strip it of its semi-autonomous nature at this time.
In February last year, Cabinet approved recommendations to merge, mainstream, and rationalize government agencies, Commissions, Authorities, and Public enterprises with the objective of eliminating structural ambiguities, functional duplication, overlaps, and wasteful expenditures to realize short and long-term savings for public resources.
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 greater Masaka Coffee actors led by Fred Mukasa Luzinda warn that the planned merging of UCDA will work against the country’s dream of realizing a substantial increase in coffee production to 20 million bags by 2025 from the current 8.4 million bags.
Besides regulating coffee quality for export promotion, UCDA is also responsible for promoting coffee value addition innovations and ensuring the farmers get quality inputs and external services among other roles.
But the actors in the coffee sector are afraid that once merged, the authority will become inefficient which will give room for more speculators who will disrupt the entire coffee value chain by compromising quality right from the seedlings up to the production, hence risking the international market.
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 prefer that government instead enlarges its coffee research capacitates and extension services to address the existential challenges that frustrate coffee farmers affecting their production capacity.
According to Luzinda, while their annual average yield of coffee per tree is estimated at 1.7 kilograms of unprocessed coffee, many farmers are performing way below the expectations due to a cocktail of challenges that include among others recurrent pests and diseases, and the unaffordability of quality inputs by farmers.
Dr. Abed Bwanika, the Member of Parliament for the Kimanya-Kabonera division in Masaka City demands that government further empowers UCDA to better its roles other than considering fusing it into the Ministry of Agriculture, which is already congested and less effective in terms of service delivery.
In his response, David Hampson Obua, the Government Chip Whip indicated that he had taken note of the farmers’ concerns and demands and asked them to make them formal to enable him to purposefully engage the relevant authorities for possible consideration.
Dr. Emmanuel Lyamulemye, the Managing director of the UCDA indicated that the country has registered tremendous improvement in coffee production and export and called upon all stakeholders to work towards expanding coffee growth across all regions 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 in the history of the country. This represents a 75% increment compared to the previous year.
In his address, Buganda’s Katikiro, Charles Peter Mayiga called upon communities not to be dissuaded from growing coffee by the current challenges, saying that there are clear indicators that the sector will continue improving.
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