Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Coffee Law 2021, published in the Official Journal on Monday this week, sparked a wide debate, with many questioning several provisions.
The new law repeals and replaces the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, Cap. 325, and aims to meet the current needs and future goals of farmers.
According to the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority, the old law only covered off-farm marketing and processing activities, while on-farm activities such as planting material, nurseries, harvesting and post handling. -harvest did not fall within its mandate.
“The Coffee Law will help address new developments, advances and challenges in the sector, including: coffee research, extension services, farmer organizations and climate change,” said Emmanuel Iyamuremye, director UCDA general, adding that the regulation of on-farm activities is a step in the right direction.
“UCDA will regulate all agricultural and extra-agricultural activities in the coffee value chain, all coffee producers will register with UCDA free of charge and they will be given an identification number.”
The UCDA also clarified that farmers will not be licensed, but will be registered to help the government maintain accurate industry data for planning and monitoring purposes. However, the law imposes strict measures, with penalties, on “post-exploitation” activities in the coffee value chain.
According to the Law, “a person shall not operate a pulp mill, purchase coffee, grade coffee, roast coffee, brew coffee, operate a cafe or cafe, a coffee sheller warehouse, or process or export coffee to a commercial basis without a license issued by the UCDA.
“Coffee is a drink and must meet the required health / safety standards. The quality of the coffee, the machines used by the processors / brewers / baristas must not compromise the health of the consumer. The purpose of licensing is to protect the consumer and ensure compliance with standards, ”explains UCDA. Section 53 of the law provides for a long list of legally punishable offenses, including operating an unregistered nursery or coffee bean garden and selling substandard or diseased plant material.
These will be punished “by a fine exceeding one hundred monetary points or by imprisonment not exceeding four years, or both”, according to the law.
These penalties will also apply to the harvest for being in possession of unripe cherries, improperly loaded wet cherries or heaping of coffee leading to grinding.
Coffee processors and huller operators who do not have a license will also be penalized.
Registration will involve entering details of land size, number of coffee trees, details of a farmer, coffee buyers, vendors and nursery operators. The registration supports the creation of a traceability system that ensures that even small farmers with microlots can earn bonuses from well-managed gardens. Microlots are special batches of coffee, selected for their high quality and unique flavor profiles, for which Ugandan coffee is known.
The law will therefore ensure that Ugandan coffee can be easily identified in the international market. “Coffee buyers and consumers want to know where the coffee they consume comes from, who produces it and what farming practices they use,” UCDA said in response to the concerns.
Section of coffee growers concerned
Some farmers, including former New Vision CEO Robert Kabushenga, criticized the law as aimed at “killing the coffee farmer” with harsh penalties, before UCDA said the criticism was based on misinformation in some parts of the media. “Just like that, in this one piece of legislation, the political establishment and Ugandan bureaucrats have sentenced the Ugandan coffee industry to death. It’s only a matter of time now, ”he said.
However, he is also against the idea that a law can help increase coffee production.
“It is about extending the powers of the UCDA. Everything else you are told is a blatant obscuration. I do not see how a piece of legislation in itself leads to an increase in coffee production. Poor extension services are incompetence, not a lack of legislation, ”says Kabushenga
Coffee factory owners who violate the standards set, “operate without a license or deny access to inspectors will be subject to a fine not exceeding two hundred monetary points or imprisonment not exceeding eight years or both”.
“We had the debate. The recommendations included dropping some of the items you mentioned. The approved law took into consideration all the concerns, ”explains the regulator. The Uganda Coffee Federation is overturning the law to support the coffee industry and increase productivity.
“The National Coffee Law of 2021, like the reforms in Ethiopia, aims to preserve and increase the gains made by Uganda – the birthplace of Robusta – over the past 30 years. We must work together to position ourselves now, not later, for greatness, ”said Federation CEO George Byamukama.
Coffee exports explode
The new law, according to the federation, will help Ugandan industry catch up with Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee producer. “Our only competitor, Ethiopia, has gone through heavy reforms over the past 3-4 years, including the formation of the Ethiopian tea and coffee industry in 2015 to oversee the Arabica coffee sector and birthplace,” did he declare.
The objective of the National Coffee Law of 2021 is to facilitate the development of a competitive, participatory and sustainable coffee sub-sector in accordance with the National Coffee Policy of 2013; provide for the UCDA to regulate, promote and supervise the coffee sub-sector; It comes as annual coffee exports hit a new high. UCDA’s coffee report for August 2021 shows that the month’s exports totaled 700,990 bags worth $ 75.09 million, compared to 636,458 bags worth $ 65.24 million the same month last year.
12-month coffee exports (September 2020-August 2021) totaled 6.41 million bags valued at $ 607 million compared to 5.22 million bags valued at $ 502.24 million l ‘last year. This represents an increase of 23% and 21% in both quantity and value respectively.