Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Uganda’s coffee exports are facing a formidable challenge as the European Union (EU) demands that exports to their market come exclusively from registered farmers, as reported by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).
Meeting this requirement poses a dual challenge not only to the authorities, given the complex nature of Uganda’s supply chain, but also to the majority of farmers who may not immediately meet the stringent registration criteria.
In addition to various sanitary standards, the EU has stipulated that everyone along Uganda’s coffee value chain must be registered to enable market authorities to monitor product standards.
During a dialogue in Kampala organized by SEATINI Uganda to discuss the potential effects of EU-Africa trade and investment policies on coffee value chains in Africa, Amelia Atukunda, Manager of Monitoring and Evaluation at UCDA, emphasized the urgency of registering all farmers by December next year.
The EU has set a deadline of January 2025 for all coffee exports to originate from registered farmers.
Atukunda highlighted the significance of complying with market demands, especially as the EU is a major consumer of Uganda’s coffee, and finding alternative markets in the short run might prove challenging.
The dialogue also addressed concerns about traceability, with stakeholders blaming the government for delays in implementing traceability policies. Atukunda explained that the EU supports the implementation of traceability as it helps verify that imported coffee adheres to values such as environmental and human rights standards.
The National Coffee Act 2021 had already included discussions about registration and traceability prior to the EU directive.
Despite the ongoing discussions, the issue of delays in implementing regulations operationalizing the Act was raised. Stakeholders criticized the cabinet for not expediting the process, expressing frustration about longstanding delays since 2000.
Jackie Arinda, the Chief Executive Officer of Jada Coffee wondered why up to now there is no traceability policy, explaining how hard it is to even try to find out from a farmer a few details about their coffee.
She said some have even turned her away for asking questions which makes them suspicious of her intentions.
“They even ask you whether you are a government spy and others even change their mind about selling their product to you,” Arinda said.
Richard Okot Okello, Assistant Commissioner of External Trade at the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, blamed the cabinet for delaying putting in place the regulations operationalizing the Act.
“We have been waiting since 2000 to have the regulations in place. But I don’t know why the cabinet has up to now not drawn the regulations,” he said.
Silas Aogon, the MP Kumi Municipality said that this is only part of the many policies in place that have not been implemented by the government.
“What happened, for example, to Agricultural Zoning? Why is the Soroti Fruit Factory not functioning?,” he wondered.
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The dialogue also highlighted broader concerns about EU-Africa trade and investment policies. Jane Nalunga, CEO of SEATINI Uganda, expressed apprehension about developments in major trading partners for Africa, particularly the EU and the US. She questioned whether the EU would be influenced by the US decision to ban African countries, including Uganda, from trading under the AGOA initiative.
The dialogue ended with the launch of a report by the German NGO, Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), commissioned by SEATINI.
The report, issued in September 2023, focused on the “Implications of the EU-Africa trade and investment policies on coffee value chains in East Africa.” It recommended protecting the EAC Policy Space, encouraging increased production and productivity, active participation in global value chains, and the removal of internal trade barriers.