Coffee price falls; farmers, traders in limbo

Kazi-njema News journalist, Gad Asaba, feels sun-drying coffee at Amazima Bugaiga Kiryateete Coffee Factory in Hoima City.

It requires a farmer to sell about 10kgs of coffee cherries to buy a kilogramme of beef”.

Farmers and traders in Hoima are at a dividing line after the price of coffee fell both on the local and international markets, Kazi-njema News reporter, Gad Asaba, writes.

Ms Margaret Birungi, a coffee farmer and widow of Kyakakoizi Village in Kitoba Sub-county, Hoima District says the fall in price of coffee has shattered her income expectations now that she can sell at a low price compared to the past.

She says although she follows standards in reaping, drying and storing her red coffee cherries, it has not saved her from feeling the pinch of the price drop for her agricultural product.

“I pick red coffee cherries, dry them on a tarpaulin and store them according to set standards expecting to reap relatively big. But this time, I am left amazed because despite fulfilling all the requirements as advised by technocrats, still the price has gone low,” she points out.

Ms Birungi says because she wants money to meet her basic needs, she is coerced to sell her coffee at such a low price that she feels is cheating her.

“I don’t have anything to do. I want some necessities at home. This leaves me with no other option than selling my coffee cherries at a low price,” she continues.

Agriculturalists recommend that red coffee cherries should be harvested for good quality product.

Mr Haruna Rwegaba, a coffee merchant at Kiryateete Cell in East Division, Hoima City says the drop in price of coffee beans on the international market has automatically affected the price of coffee cherries locally leading to a drastic fall.

He adds that some farmers are now hoarding their coffee, planning to sell it when the price increases again. This has resulted in the eventual coffee scarcity in the area market.

Mr Rwegaba attributes the fall in price to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected global economies due to lockdowns that were imposed to slow the spread of the disease in addition to high taxes levied on coffee exports.

The coffee dealer is pessimistic about farmers’ financial progress if government does not lower the taxes on the coffee exports.

“The price of coffee has fallen drastically. Given the way farmers suffer the whole year, they cannot sell their coffee at Shs1,800. Buying a kilogramme of beef requires a coffee farmer to sell about 10kgs of coffee cherries. This implies that farmers suffer most compared to other dealers in the coffee industry,” says Mr Rwegaba.

“I urge government to reduce taxes on coffee so that farmers can also get some profits from their product and develop. Farmers tending to their coffee for a whole year and then sell a kilogramme at Shs1,800 means that they are not developing financially. People involved in coffee production and trade will not be able to take their children back to school because of the fall in price,” he continues.

Audio: Rwegaba on coffee price fall (Luganda)

The Bunyoro Region Coffee Officer, Matthew Kwikiriza, also attributes the price drop to the outbreak of COVID-19 and high tax levies besides harvesting green coffee cherries and poor methods of coffee drying.

“Most farmers’ poor handling of coffee at all levels including harvesting immature cherries and combining it with red cherries directly pouring it onto soil while drying it, has culminated in poor quality product at local and international markets. The poor handling also leave the cherries producing a bad smell bringing sub-standard quality,” he says.

Adding: “The outbreak of corona virus pandemic has also contributed to a price fall since economies were under lockdown that affected business operations.”

Mr Kwikiriza reiterates his advice to farmers to stop harvesting premature coffee cherries so that they can produce good quality coffee for better earning.

Coffee sun-dries at Amazima Bugaiga Kiryateete Coffee Factory in Hoima City.

Comparison of current, previous coffee prices on local & world markets  

Local market current price/kgLocal market previous price/kg
UGX1,800 (coffee cherries)UGX3,000 (coffee cherries)
UGX3,500 (coffee beans)UGX4,500 (coffee beans)
  
World market current price/kgWorld market previous price/kg
UGX3,500 (coffee cherries)UGX5,000 (coffee cherries)
UGX4,000 (coffee beans)UGX8,000 (coffee beans)
Source: Mr Haruna Rwegaba, coffee trader at Amazima Bugaiga Kiryateete Coffee Factory, Hoima City.

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