Uganda: Heavy rains may mar quality of coffee crop

Amid the worldwide struggling due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Uganda faces another challenge. The quality of Uganda’s coffee crop may have to deal with a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the east African region have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying, an industry official announced recently.

Uganda is known to be Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

Image credit ESM

The country has been hit by rarely heavy rains that started in August last year, resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other public infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains that are among the biggest coffee growing parts of the country, has been hit by some of the most intense rains.

“The drying process is a major problem in most of the places...the weather is indeed not good for drying,” David Muwonge, head of marketing at the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farmer Enterprises (NUCAFE) said.

“There’s a higher risk of beans becoming mouldy unless farmers are well sensitised.”

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, has established that Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16% to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

A female coffee farmer at a field training school. Image credit Wikipedia

The country’s coffee output has risen in recent years thanks to the result of the fruition of the government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace ageing trees.

National authorities declared that their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest product export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

Muwonge admitted that the damage to transport infrastructure by the rains and floods was likely slowing the flow of beans from farms and collection centres from some of the deep rural areas.

Coffee cherries in the hands of coffee farmers. Image credit Genuine Origin

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