“We feel registration of farmers is very complicated, it puts a small farmer at a disadvantage because the bill looks at the commercial farmer as someone who has 50 trees but we know that there are farmers who have five trees,”
Scientists and researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and the National Coffee Research Institute, have rejected some clauses of the National Coffee Bill, 2018 saying they are unfriendly to small scale farmers and only benefit large scale, coffee farmers.
Under the amendment Bill, the Government through Uganda Coffee Development Authority intends to regulate the coffee industry by registering all coffee farmers in the country to have the sector streamlined, by registering, licensing coffee farmers and also undertake research activities.
“We feel registration of farmers is very complicated, it puts a small farmer at a disadvantage because the bill looks at the commercial farmer as someone who has 50 trees but we know that there are farmers who have five trees,” Geoffrey Arinatwe, the NARO Director of Research said.
In April 2019, the government tabled before parliament the National Coffee Bill, 2018 for first reading, before it was referred to the House’s committee on agriculture for scrutiny.
Among other provisions, the Bill which seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, Cap.325 that was passed in 1994, provides for the registration of coffee farmers, coffee nursery operators, coffee farmer organizations and cooperatives and coffee value chain actors and also issuance of licenses.
This provision has however caused public uproar where members of the public and MPs have expressed concern that the Bill is intended to restrict the growing of coffee in the country.
“To be honest, it’s the worst thing we can do to ourselves; register cooperatives to manage their own people” Francis Gonahasa (Kabweri County) noted.
The Bill currently before the committee on agriculture seeks to reform the law to provide for Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub-sector and to regulate all on the farm and off-farm activities along the coffee value chain
Appearing before the committee yesterday, Agriculture Scientists led by the Director of Research Geoffrey Arinaitwe expressed dissatisfaction with Uganda Coffee Development Authority saying their views were not captured in the final copy of the Bill.
“I don’t want to give an impression that scientists were not consulted, we were but in the final bill, we are seeing that our contributions were not captured “Pascal Musali a senior research officer with NARO lamented.
Clause 51 cap3&4 of the bill provides for setting up a national coffee institute which will have the mandate to do research on coffee and also engage other research services in case of any comparative advantage and competence.
“UCDA is not mandated to do research, they are supposed to promote and regulate the coffee value addition activities” Arinaitwe noted.
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Janet Okori-moe woman MP Abim promised the scientists that there is going to be wide consultations on the matter and that the input of the researchers will be captured in the final report.
“We are going to be very conscious, we have asked UCDA to provide us with the list of any other stakeholders because there isn’t going to be anyone sidelined,” Okori Moe said.
One of the contentious clauses in the Bill is clause 28, which provides for de-registration of a coffee farmer. Under this clause, the Authority may, after being satisfied that a registered coffee farmer has failed to comply with the terms and condition of registration, strike off the register the name of the coffee farmer.
Appearing before the committee on Tuesday, agriculture minister Vincent Ssempijja defended the Bill saying registration and licensing of coffee farmers is aimed at linking Ugandan coffee producers to the international market, to boost the market for the Ugandan coffee.