National Coffee Act, 2021 hailed by Ugandan farmers, stakeholders in coffee sector

UGANDA – The National Coffee Act, 2021, recently assented by the Ugandan president has been hailed by farmers and all stakeholders in the coffee sector as it is set to facilitate development of a competitive, participatory and sustainable coffee sub sector in accordance with the National Coffee Policy, 2013.

The National Coffee Policy, 2013 aims to provide for Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub sector; and to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain.

Uganda is the second biggest coffee producer in Africa and 10th in the world. Coffee is said to be the most widely traded tropic agricultural commodity internationally and also the most traded commodity globally after oil.

It provides employment to about nine million people in Uganda through coffee related activities besides being the most important foreign exchange earner crop in the country.

The National Coffee Act 2021 has come when Uganda now realizes that coffee is a strategic commodity whose production and productivity must be enhanced and regulated to compete well with other international producers of the crop.

This is a law that we have been craving for as coffee farmers for many years. You remember we fought hard to get the National Coffee Policy, which the Cabinet approved in 2013 but there was still a big need for a law such as this one to safeguard and regulate good coffee production practices,” Gerald Ssendaula, former Minister of Finance and now a farmer told Seeds of Gold.

He explained that the law is set to prevent bad coffee handling practices such as people drying coffee on an open soil surface which introduces foreign objects and smells into the crop hence spoils its taste.

Ssendaula informed that failure to comply with the new regulations would lead to prosecution. He has also strongly appealed to the government to let Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) operate independently and not be merged with any ministry as this would weaken its capacity to enforce the Act due to unnecessary bureaucracy.

Ssendaula who was the Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce when Uganda Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) was scrapped and replaced by UCDA, claimed that the government was not a good salesman.

“There was too much bureaucracy at the CMB and lots of things were not done as efficiently as they ought to have been done. This was not only at CMB but also in many others such as Lint Marketing Board (LMB) and Produce Marketing Board (PMB). There was also a global wave to liberalize the trade in agricultural commodities. We therefore chose to do the regulation instead of being directly engaged in coffee marketing and setting coffee prices,” he said.

Provisions of the National Coffee Act, 2021

The National Coffee Act, 2021 provides for coffee research and development, which is vital to the improvement in production and productivity, quality and value addition, market development and intelligence and institutional development and accountability.

It allows UCDA to lead the implementation of coffee specific extension services by coordinating the efforts of different agencies and other stakeholders, Strengthen the fees and penalties in the current Act, which are weak and therefore need enhancement to make them deterrent

The Act does not seek to license coffee farmers but instead to register them. Part IV of the Act provides for registration of coffee farmers, nursery operators, seed gardens operators, farmer organizations and cooperatives.

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