The minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, has come out to explain why dozens of coffee factories in the greater Masaka sub-region were shut about two months ago.
In his report, presented to members of parliament on July 27, Ssempijja said the closure was as a result of factory owners being found in possession of poor-quality coffee due to poor post-harvest handling practices.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) effected the closure and about 60 factories in Kinoni, Masaka, Lwengo, Sembabule, Rakai, Kalungu and Bukomasimbi were left sealed.
Ssempijja’s 23-page statement was a response to Deogratius Kiyingi, the Bukomansimbi South MP, who raised a concern about the same issue on June 22 and demanded a thorough explanation.
Ssempijja further explained that the factory owners were found guilty of possessing immature coffee beans, having wet kiboko coffee that had not attained the recommended moisture content of 13 or 14 per cent, and heaping of wet coffee before drying, which leads to the growth of mould.
The other shortcomings included drying of coffee on bare ground, possession of substandard coffee hulling equipment, possession and drying of coffee in unhygienic conditions and non-compliance to the recommended factory structural guidelines.
Ssempijja said the offences are serious because they threaten the competitiveness of Uganda’s coffee on the global market and also pose a threat to the health of Ugandans who consume coffee products. Ssempijja notes that currently, Uganda is ranked as the eighth coffee producer in the world, having declined from the third position in 1995.
“In the event that the stakeholder does not comply with the above,” the report reads, “the stakeholder’s registration will be suspended by having the facility sealed and given a specified timeframe to rectify and put right the identified anomaly.”
Ssempijja further stated that the seal may be removed only if compliance has been identified, before adding that some factories have already been reopened after they complied with the regulations.
Ssempijja added that the move to close coffee factories that are not meeting the guidelines has just started and it will be effected in all the other coffee-producing districts.
“From Masaka, the exercise will continue to Busoga, Luweero, and Mubende...We will continue to sensitize the stakeholders especially the farmers, traders and coffee factory processors to appreciate the benefits of good post-harvest handling and good quality coffee,” reads the report in part.
The districts that have been credited for compliance are Bushenyi, Sheema, Ibanda, Mbale, Bulambuli and Sironko. President Yoweri Museveni has already launched the 2020 coffee roadmap, whose target is to produce 20 million 60 kilo bags.