Coffee Growers in Africa Speaks Out

18 June Print

Coffee Growers in Africa Speaks Out

The second largest coffee producer in Africa is Uganda, but local farmers are now complaining because they do not make much profit from their harvest.

Hassan Kakooza has been a coffee farmer for 16 years. “Ugandan farmers, we are not happy, the coffee farmers we are not happy,” he says. “Why? Because we are still colonized — by the multinationals. The end user is getting more than the one who is toiling with the garden,”

This strikes a chord with Michael Kijjambu, a Ugandan coffee roaster, who believes Uganda needs more control over the production process.

It does not make sense to local farmers why they grow coffee and yet it is transported elsewhere to create job for others whiles their youth, women and men need jobs. Farmers advocate that all the processing of the raw material should be done at the local level. They have made their partition to the Ugandan government for funding. In a recent budget plan, the Ugandan government said it would work with the country’s banks in offering $37.5 million of low-interest loans to farmers by 2012. Uganda has reason to be confident in its produce. Commodities trader Burju Patel explains that it is world-renowned for its Robusta beans — which are found in most Italian and French coffees. The government is now setting its sights on a previously unexplored market — China. It is investing $300,000 dollars to roast, package and sell Ugandan coffee in Beijing.

But Kijjambu is unconvinced about plans to break into the Chinese market, where tea is king. “They thought a billion people — they are going to sell a billion cups; they didn’t think what it takes to turn that billion people into coffee drinkers,” he says.

He believes that the focus should be directed at growing the coffee market at home.

In Africa, coffee consumption is currently estimated at less than 5% of annual production.

Kijjambu has now opened a coffee shop to encourage a culture of coffee drinking and to help Ugandans realize coffee does not always have to be destined for consumption in richer countries.

“People still think that coffee is not for them,” he says. “For them it is just to grow the coffee and export it for someone else to drink.”

But he acknowledges the industry faces other challenges. “Of course, the infrastructure, moving the coffee from the farm to the market, is still a very big challenge,” he says.

“In the wet season trucks can’t move and also if you look at investment in agriculture it’s still very minimal.”

But while Kakooza continues to pick coffee beans, he knows it will take more investment, ingenuity and hard work to go from planting a cash crop to reaping real economic rewards.

Source: CNN


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