KAMPALA – A new law that seeks to regulate the growing and sale of coffee is in the offing.
The new law is being drafted under the National Coffee Bill, 2018, which is aimed at maintaining quality in the coffee sector that is Uganda’ biggest foreign exchange earner.
The National Coffee Bill is intended to replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) Act 1991, which was only limited to covering the marketing and processing stages of coffee.
In drafting the Bill, the government was concerned by the continued compromising of quality of coffee by farmers through harvesting raw beans instead of ripe ones and poor drying, which led to Uganda’s coffee losing market internationally.
“There is a need to regulate the coffee value chain as is done in other jurisdictions, especially to include the on-farm activities, alongside the off-farm ones in regard to the generation of planting materials, harvesting and drying of coffee, to improve on the quality of coffee that goes to both the local and international market,” the Bill States.
The regulator of the sector, according to the Bill, will be Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), which will register all coffee farmers for purposes of monitoring and regulation.
UCDA will then supervise the land on which the farmer intends to grow coffee to assess it’s suitability.
This registration Will be entirely free and each registered farmer will be issued with an identification number, which may be withdrawn should he or she flout the procedures.
According to Bill, the government will channel information or materials about coffee to only registered farmers.
The Bill has also proposed tougher sanctions for those who flout the new procedures.
For example, the Bill states that farmers found operating an unauthorized nursery bed, selling or distributing coffee seedlings, harvesting immature coffee beans or poorly drying and storing them face a fine of 48 currency points (about UGX900,000) or a two-year prison sentence.
Other offences, which will attract a maximum sentence of 120 currency points (about Shs2.4m) or five-year jail term, include drying coffee on bare ground and processing coffee without a license.
According to Col Shaban Bantariza, the Deputy Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre, the proposed new law is long overdue.
“The National Coffee Bill intends to facilitate the development of a competitive, equitable and sustainable Coffee Industry by promoting Coffee research, good Coffee farming practices, domestic consumption of Coffee and adding value to Coffee,” Bantariza said.
Bantariza said Cabinet meeting has also proposed the introduction of a coffee auction system, to ease trade in the sub-sector.
“The Bill will also provide for an authority to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain,” he added.
Parliament through the Agriculture committee will soon start the process of handling the Bill, such as seeking the public views about it.
The Government target on coffee production is to export 20 million bags by 2025.
Official figures from UCDA indicate that Uganda currently exports 401,930 bags to the international market annually.