Coffee is Uganda´s most important agricultural product and represents 95% of total exports; providing a livelihood for 2.800,000 people. It is cultivated under the shade of banana and other fruit trees (known as the “African garden” due to this cultivation method) mainly in small lots of 1 or 2 hectares maximum. The main variety cultivated is Robusta, which has grown wild for centuries in the country, discovered circa 1860 in the mountainous areas adjacent to the Kenyan border near Lake Victoria. The Arabica variety (Typica and Kent) was introduced by Malawi in the early 1900s, but although highly prized and sought-after, it only accounts for 10% of total production. Uganda is currently Africa´s second producer after Ethiopia and stands at ninth position worldwide.
Its geographical position, landlocked and nestled within central-eastern Africa, has necessitated good relations with bordering countries. This is especially true of Kenya and Tanzania, on whose ports it relies to export products. Once upon a time, this adversely affected the product quality, which upon transfer to the ports of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, suffered several hitches before reaching its destinations. However, a degree of political stability in East Africa and modernization of infrastructure in recent times has resulted in faster and safer activity.
COFFEE AND POLITICS
Until 1990, the export of coffee was monopolized by the state Coffee Marketing Board (CMD). After 1991, Uganda, akin to many East African countries, decided to liberalize the coffee market to increase the business volume and improve the quality of the product. Thus the UCDA (Uganda Coffee Development Authority) came into being to regulate and supervise the market, in addition to maintaining relations with ports of embarkation. Exports, meanwhile, passed into the hands of cooperatives and private companies, free to do business with whoever they wished.
The following changes are the most significant of those introduced:
- Deregulation of transport and removal of export taxes
- Kampala , the country´s capital, recognised as an inland port for FOT prices
- Simplification of process to obtain export licenses