Uganda has decided to leave the International Coffee Organization (ICO) for two years. This move is to put pressure on the organisation to address the country’s concerns as a top coffee producer. Uganda has been part of the ICO’s network since 2007, and believes stepping away is the only way to enact change.
Some coffee-producing countries have questioned the deal, claiming that it solely benefits consumers, while farmers’ interests, particularly in terms of gaining a higher price and better quotas, are ignored.
Uganda feels that the ICO’s classification of coffees does not reflect the country’s distinctiveness as the birthplace of Robusta coffee or Ethiopia as the origin of Arabica coffee.
“Uganda does not support the two years’ extension of the International Coffee Agreement 2007, because Uganda’s concerns and interests have not been addressed in the new agreement,” said Emmanuel Iyamulemye, Uganda Coffee Development Authority’s (UCDA) managing director. “In this regard, our strategy is to strengthen the coffee sector regionally by advocating projects through the Inter-African Coffee Organisation (IACO).”
The agreement is written in such a way that the ICO is not bound by any specific goals. This is due to a flaw in the wording, which has resulted in member discontent that their countries are not benefitting from their participation.
Price is a factor
According to UCDA, the country’s stance will be critical in incorporating key performance indicators into all of the agreement’s objectives. Some of Uganda’s aspirations in this agreement include for ICO to look into value-added coffee rather than just green beans.
“Then we raised the issue of the volatility of price of coffee which is done by certain few individuals and they come up with the global composite indicator price. Ideally, the composite indicator price favors the consuming countries like USA, German and UK who buy the green been add value and later get the better prices,” a UCDA report said.
Uganda’s monthly coffee export revenues in December reached a new high of $75.2 million (Ush267 billion). The country’s earnings in December 2021 were marginally higher than those in August and November, which totaled $75.02 million and $71 million, respectively.
This was a record profits performance and the highest thus far, marking a return to higher levels since 2011. The country is still Africa’s major coffee exporter and second-largest producer, ranking in the top ten producers, according to the UCDA report.