Changes in the National Coffee Bill 2018

Monday, 24 February 2020
Ishmael Tumusiime

"Coffee Bill "


The Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act Cap 325 (Act) was enacted in 1991 to govern the coffee sector in Uganda. The Act is still in effect and mainly provides for the regulation of off-farm coffee activities including marketing and processing of coffee.


The National Coffee Bill 2018 (Bill) seeks to expand the regulatory scope to cover the entire coffee value chain including on-farm activities with an aim of improving the quality of coffee that is consumed by both local and international markets.


Expanding Coffee Value Chain Regulation

In expanding the regulatory framework the Bill introduces and widely defines the phrase “coffee value chain” to include all “on” and “off” farm activities. This is an attempt to bridge the gap in the Act that does not define and specify what activities are subject to the coffee sector regulatory regime.


The Bill is more detailed and specific as to what activities in the coffee sector will be regulated; a look at the definitions of the terms “off-farm” and “on-farm” activities may easily lead one to conclude that all activities in the entire coffee value chain from planting to consumption of coffee will be regulated by the Bill once enacted into law.


         The Bill also defines a “coffee farmer” as a person who grows coffee for commercial purposes. With the introduction of this definition, even the small scale farmers with countable coffee trees may be captured by the new regulatory framework.


Registration and Licensing of coffee farmers and value chain actors

The Bill proposes registration of all coffee farmers in the coffee subsector. In order to be registered, a farmer, at the time of registration, should either be growing coffee or prove that she/he intends to commence growing coffee within 6 months from the date of registration. Secondly, there will be confirmation that the UCDA Authority has evaluated the land where the coffee is to be grown or is grown and that such land has been deemed suitable for growing coffee.


Under the Bill, the UCDA Authority will be empowered to deregister a coffee farmer for non-compliance with the registration terms and conditions. An appeal from such a decision would be to the Minister responsible for the coffee subsector.


Apart from coffee farmers, the Bill proposes to extend the UCDA Authority’s supervisory and regulatory regime to all other actors in the coffee value chain by registering and issuing licenses to them. Such other actors include operators of coffee nurseries, processing factories, pulpers, coffee buyers, packers, roasters, graders, exporters among others.


Quality control

The Bill’s objective, among others, is stated to be improvement of the overall quality of coffee produced in Uganda for both the local and international markets. It is proposed that the UCDA Authority should grade, regulate and sensitize farmers on the types and varieties of coffee to be grown in the different parts of Uganda. Coffee Farmers may no longer be at liberty to grow all sorts of varieties of coffee more so where such varieties have not been cleared to be grown in a particular area. The UCDA Authority will also be empowered to prescribe quality control standards for the sale and marketing of coffee.


Unlike the Act which had no sanctions, the Bill criminalizes certain activities that compromise the quality of coffee including neglecting a coffee farm, packaging non-coffee materials, poor harvest & post-harvest practices (like harvesting immature cherries, poor storage of coffee, drying coffee on bare ground etc.), tampering with the seal of the authority among others. Directors and employees of companies will be taken to have committed prescribed offences in the UCDA Act unless they prove that the company committed the offence without their knowledge or that they exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.


Pricing and research

The Coffee Bill proposes a shift in the duty of the UCDA Authority from fixing a minimum price to only issuing indicative prices at which coffee may be traded. The UCDA Authority will also be mandated to establish a coffee auctions system which is to be used as an alternative to the day to day method of selling coffee.


In order to ensure advancement in the sector, the Coffee Bill establishes and mandates the National Coffee Research Institute to undertake research in the coffee subsector.


In conclusion therefore, the Bill has introduced changes extending the coverage of the regulatory framework and is more particular as to what activities it will regulate once enacted into law. The UCDA Authority will be at the forefront of the sector growth and ensuring that quality of the coffee produced, processed, consumed or exported from Uganda is of an acceptable international standard.

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