By Vision Reporter
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has met a delegation from the largest coffee roaster in Europe, D.E Master Blenders at his office in Kampala.
The company is also the third largest coffee roaster globally, with headquarters in the Netherlands.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Mbabazi disclosed that the government had embarked on an ambitious programme to multiply the number of coffee trees in the country, and increase their productivity. He said agricultural zoning was critical for household poverty eradication.
Mbabazi urged the company to develop strategic relationships with farmers in support of the programme. The company is already operating in Luwero district focusing on quality improvement, good agricultural practices and improved market access for participating producer groups.
“I can assure you of total support to facilitate that partnership because our economy is private sector-led and I don’t see this changing soon,” Mbabazi said. He noted that proceeds from the nascent oil industry would be used to boost agricultural production, value addition and product quality to international standards.
Coffee is an important export product for Uganda, representing about 11 percent of the total value of exports. With sales of €2.7bn (about sh11,000tn), D. E. Master Blenders coffee and tea products are available in more than 45 countries worldwide and Uganda could exploit that market.
Luc Volatier, the company’s senior vice president for operations who led the group, underscored the need for benchmarking high-intensity small-holder coffee farms such as in Vietnam, farmer sensitisation and training, as well as microfinance support to the farmers to eliminate parasitic middlemen who erode farmer profitability.
The Minister of Agriculture, Tress Bucyanayandi, noted that 65 out of the 112 districts were potentially profitable coffee growers. He said the government planned to double national production from 3.5 to six million 60-kg bags of coffee per annum.
The meeting was also attended by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Managing Director, Henry Ngabirano, the Managing Director of UGACOF Ltd, Kailash Natani, and Nicolas Tamari, chief executive of the Geneva-based coffee trader, Sucafina.
In the early 1990’s, Uganda coffee was hit hard by the wilt disease which killed about 40 percent of the country’s trees. Due to inadequate research, extension and availability of resistant plant materials, the disease is still prevalent, greatly reducing productivity of coffee farms.