By Walukhu Peter and Weswa Ronnie, NECJOGHA, MBALE
Kampala, Uganda- Most coffee farmers and their leaders in the Mount Elgon sub region have condemned the proposed National Coffee Bill 2018 that seeks to licence all coffee farmers.
The bill that was tabled before parliament recently by Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Vincent Sempijja is seen by Elgon region farmers and leaders as a way of kicking out small scale farmers.
Under the amendment Bill, the Government through the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) 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.
Nathan Nandala Mafabi the Chairman of Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) and Member of Parliament for Budadiri West says that most farmers are ignorant about the bill and that the government must first ask remembers of parliaments to go and consult farmers from their respective constituencies.
John Baptist Nambeshe the Member of Parliament for Manjiya County called upon government to support coffee farmers with pest and disease control measures, extension services, marketing and processing that he thinks will help improve on coffee production rather than ideas that will lock out potential small scale farmers and favour only the rich farmers.
Isaiah Ssanga Wanzira, director of Sironko valley zone under Bugisu cooperative union condemned the bill saying that the government is aiming at taxing coffee farmers which may lead most farmers to shun away from coffee growing which is the main cash earner to Bamasaaba. He urged MPs to not pass the bill because it’s going to oppress small coffee farmers.
Former woman MP Manafwa District who is also a farmer from Namisindwa District Sarah Netalisile said some clauses of the bill intend to register only those with a big acreage of land that might end up living out small scale farmers.
Eve Kayegi a farmer from Sironko district says much as Elgon region is counted among the leading coffee producers in the country but it is majorly practiced by small scale farmers that are most likely to lose out.
However, John Musila the vice chairperson BCU and is also the chairperson Manafwa district welcomed the bill believe saying that it will help improve on the quality of coffee production.
Scientists and researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and the National Coffee Research Institute have already rejected some clauses of the National Coffee Bill, 2018 saying they are unfriendly to small scale farmers and only benefit large scale, coffee farmers.
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.
“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 ArinaItwe, the NARO Director of Research said while appearing before the committee last week.mall
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.
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.
According to the website of the Uganda Coffee Federation (UCF), a non profit company which brings together coffee exporters, coffee processors, farmers, companies that supply equipment and supplies to coffee exporters and processors, clearing and forwarding companies, insurance companies, banks and international coffee trading houses in Europe, production of coffee averaged almost 3.3 million bags in the six years from 1996 to 2001, with a peak of 4.2 million bags in 1996/7 (a total last seen in 1972) and a low of 2.0 million in 2005/6. The proportion of Arabica coffee fluctuates from around 8 to 10% of the total. Local consumption is limited at around 3% of production.
(Walukhu Peter works for Step FM and Wesswa Ronnie works for Elgon FM both in Mbale)