“Life begins after coffee” is a motto followed faithfully by my husband. As the world’s third most consumed beverage, after water and tea, coffee beans are no doubt in high demands everywhere. Whilst Uganda may not spring to mind when one thinks of coffee production, she is in fact ranked by the International Coffee Organisation as the world’s 8th largest coffee producing country. In 2015, Uganda exported approximately 216 million kilograms of coffee beans, generating around $450 million in revenue.
Coffee being the most important cash crop is vital to the Ugandan economy, has large portion of the population working in coffee related industries. Uganda produces both Robusta beans – a crop grown natively in the Kibale forest area – and Arabica beans. Coffee is a risky agricultural crop as it will only survive in certain altitude and particular temperature levels with appropriate mix of rain and sunshine. As global warming increases temperature, not only is sunshine ruining coffee production, farmers must also fight against new pests which previously survived only at lower altitudes. Moreover, majority of coffee beans are grown by small-sized family farms whose livelihood depends on its sales. While global coffee distributors can source coffee beans from alternative parts of the world during gloomy weather, the small Ugandan coffee farmers can’t go anywhere else. Although many claim that coffee is what brings life to a day, for farmers who produce it, coffee is literally about life to survival.
Like many other developing countries which produce coffee as a cash crop, local consumption is little. Last year, local coffee consumption in Uganda made up only 3% of its production. Interestingly, recent research done by development agency, Inspire Africa suggests that if Ugandan consumed 10% more of the coffee they produced, this could provide $2.3 billion additional revenue per year into the economy. In line with this vision, the Ugandan government and the Uganda Coffee Development Authority are promoting and supporting domestic coffee consumption. Last year, marketing campaigns such as offering free coffees around Kampala, coffee expos, barista training and competition were provided to motivate Ugandan coffee consumptions. Whilst coffee culture in Uganda is certainly incomparable to those in Melbourne, the number of boutique coffee shops and franchise in Uganda is certainly on the rise. During our visit to Uganda, as coffee lovers we have certainly enjoyed the cup of coffee brewed by serious local baristas. Moreover, what more can one asks for if you can support the local economy by enjoying a great cup of coffee? I too, am hopeful that one day Ugandans can appreciate the value of the coffee they produce and own their entire coffee value chain!