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Gov't Tables Bill to Regulate Coffee Quality

The Bill wants, among other provisions, to reform and provide for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub-sector; and to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain, to provide for a coffee auction system and to create and enhance the penalties.
Some proposals in the National Coffee Bill,2018
Government has presented the National Coffee Bill, 2018 for its first reading. The Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, Cap.325 that was passed in 1994.

The Bill wants, among other provisions, to reform and provide for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub-sector; and to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain, to provide for a coffee auction system and to create and enhance the penalties.

The government notes that the UCDA Act that was over two decades ago only covers the off-farm activities of marketing and processing and thereby ignored the on-farm activities such as planting materials, harvesting and post-harvesting, which affect the quality of coffee.

It is noted that UCDA does not have the mandate to regulate on-farm activities especially in regard to 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 government, therefore, proposes that UCDA should not just focus on marketing coffee but also regulate on-farm activities which in effect affect both the quality and price of coffee. 

UCDA should thereby regulate both on- farm and off-farm activities including nursery management, pest and disease control in the sector, rehabilitation, harvesting, drying and grading. The UCDA will among other functions register coffee farmers, coffee nursery operators, coffee farmer organizations and cooperatives and coffee value chain actors and also issue licenses. 

Meanwhile, people who breach the provisions will pay fines or serve jail terms or both upon conviction. For instance, any person who operates a coffee nursery, neglects a coffee farm, sells or distributes substandard seedlings or seeds will pay a fine not exceeding 960,000 shillings or spend a maximum of two years in jail or both. 

While those who operate a coffee processing factory with a license, process coffee without a valid license, dry coffee on the bare ground among others could pay a fine not exceeding 2.8 million shillings or serve a 5-year jail term or both. 

The Bill also seeks to provide for the provision of coffee extension services, which are not catered for in the current Act.   The UCDA will lead the implementation of coffee specific extension services in partnership with different agencies and farmer associations. 

Also, reforms must be made in the law to consider developments and challenges in coffee research as well as climate change so as to meet current needs and long term goals of the government. 

The Government also wants to remove ‘redundant clauses’ such as establishment of the price policy committee to set minimum prices, which are not sustainable in a liberal economy.  In the Act, the Price Committee comprises six members chaired by UCDA Managing Director, the export manager, the price statistician and a representative of the ministry for cooperative and marketing. 

This price committee, according to the law, must sit daily to set the minimum price for coffee using guidelines. 

Meanwhile, a Price Policy Committee is also provided for to establish or review the pricing formula for fixing the minimum prices of coffee.  This committee, expected to sit at least once a month, is made up of 7 members including the Managing Director of the UCDA, a statistician and representative’s coffee farmers and exporters, Bank of Uganda, ministries of finance, cooperatives and marketing. 

The Bill has now been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries for further scrutiny.  

Bank of Uganda reported that Uganda exported 4.1 million bags of coffee sold at 1.5 trilling shillings in 2018. This was a reduction from the 4.7 million bags of coffee exported in 2017, which fetched about 2 trillion shillings. 

The Government aims to export 20 million bags of coffee annually by 2025. Each bag weighs 60kg of coffee. 

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