The National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) is to market Uganda’s coffee in the Unites States.
The move is intended to boost the visibility of Uganda’s coffee in the world’s most powerful country.
This follows a match-making meeting between Nucafe executive director Joseph Nkandu and US investors in agribusiness value addition, including Chromatic Coffee and Seva Coffee, held in Silicon Valley, California, recently.
Nkandu said though the Government targets to export 20 million bags of coffee by 2020, insufficient marketing of the commodity in key consuming countries like the US could hamper its plan.
“Uganda’s coffee is not known in key coffee consuming countries like the US. Our coffee is just used as a blend, but we want to change this trend and start having it on the shelves in the US,” Nkandu said in an interview recently.
The executive director Uganda Coffee Federation, Betty Namwagala, earlier said despite Uganda being one of the leading exporters of coffee in Africa and the 10th producer globally, its brand as a country is not seen anywhere on the global supermarket shelves even when the coffee as regarded of best quality.
Namwagala said there should be a deliberate effort to take Uganda’s coffee to the international supermarket, rather than it being used as a blend for redeeming other coffees.
The above partly explains why Uganda’s export volumes have stagnated at about 3 million bags for close to 20 years. Uganda last had the highest coffee production in 1996/1997, estimated at 4.2 million bags.
Despite the low volume, coffee exports remain Uganda’s biggest foreign exchange earner after tourism and remittances from Ugandans living abroad.
Nucafe was among the 14 social enterprises globally that qualified to take part in the Global Social Benefit Institute of Santa Clara University accelerator programme conducted in the Silicon Valley, California, US.
The accelerator programme prepares innovative social enterprises to scale and prosper by providing quality, in-depth mentoring delivered by Silicon Valley business executives to improve enterprises.
Nucafe is a social enterprise that supports and empowers smallholder coffee farmers who are not in position to individually participate directly in the market place.
It is now expected to send coffee samples to be analysed, after which it will be allowed to sell its processed and branded products to the US.
“Uganda is thinking about boosting coffee production and exports and to do that, we need to prepare the market and it must start now.
“We have to do things differently,” Nkandu said.
Nucafe has embarked on a journey to establish the necessary operational and traceability systems, so as to improve the quality of coffee to meet the required standards in the US market.
High quality coffee
The organisation is also working closely with farmers to ensure they harvest good quality coffee beans to guarantee high quality coffee that meets the US standards.
Nkandu also urged the Government to partner with the private sector so as to offer a well-packaged intervention approach across the coffee value chain to increase productivity and be able to meet the 20 million bags of coffee that it targets to export by 2020.
“We need a well-packaged approach for farmers to be able to increase coffee yields amid climate change.
“The intervention should not only be on seedlings as the Government is doing now; we have to address challenges constraining the coffee crop wholesomely across the entire value chain. You cannot stimulate coffee production by simply supplying seedlings alone,” he said.
Namwagala also said though the Government has made efforts to work with the private sector and the farmers’ in as far as providing seedlings is concerned, there is not much impact reflected in the volumes.
The aBi Trust Coffee Development Offi cer, Teopista Nakkungu, noted that there is need for intervention in the coffee sub-sector to enhance quality, access to improved seeds and agro inputs and markets among others.
The stakeholders in the sub-sector also called for the enactment of a national coffee law to guide coffee production and ensure high quality standards in planting, harvesting, drying and processing the coffee beans.
Nucafe was also awarded the Kenya Entrepreneurship Showcase Impact Medal from the Italian Entrepreneurship for Impact Foundation and Tangaza University, Kenya, last year in recognition of the organisation’s farmer ownership model innovation.
The model enables farmers to own their coffee along the various stages of the value chain.
Farmers are also trained on how to assume as many roles and responsibilities as possible in the coffee value chain in order to increase their incomes from the value added.
Nucafe as a social enterprise aims at changing the global view of Ugandan coffee by:
- Strengthening the coffee brand from a blend
- Increasing exports to 20 million bags by 2020
- Empowering smallholder coffee farmers to access markets
- Helping farmers improve coffee quality to international standards by taking part in the value chain stages.