Ugandan coffee farmers have expressed concern that the country’s coffee could be barred from international markets such as Europe due to the decision by Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to withdraw from the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

This comes after the Executive Director of ICO on February 2, 2022 informed all ICO Members that UCDA is no eligible to issue ICO Certificates of Origin.

“Due to the decision of the Government of Uganda not to agree with the extension of the International Coffee Agreement 2007 and the consequent withdrawal of Uganda from the Organization. The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) is no longer eligible to issue ICO Certificates of Origin. Any ICO Certificate of Origin issued by the UCDA dated after 1 February 2022 will not be valid,” the Executive Director of ICO announced.

ICO certificates of origin are issued for every international shipment of coffee from producers to consumers (whether the importing country is an ICO member or not), and are used to monitor the movement of coffee worldwide.

The forms contain details of identity, size, origin, destination and time of shipment of the parcels in question. ICO certificates were particularly important when ICO export quotas were in force as they were also used to enforce the quota limits for individual exporting countries.

Although the certificates are now less important (and some consumer countries no longer insist on them), it is in the interest of exporting countries to comply with ICO regulations on certificates of origin as they enable the ICO to monitor coffee movements and produce accurate statistics on each country’s exports.

The revelation has drawn anger from several coffee farmers and processors, many of whom took to social media to condemn the government decision.

Former New Vision CEO and a coffee farmer Robert Kabushenga said: “Folks, just when I thought #UGCoffee problem couldn’t get any worse, now our worst fears have been confirmed. Access to the lucrative European coffee (esp 4 robusta) market is dead. Some clueless talking head is going to come here & lie to us how they are pushing for better terms.”

“What is even more annoying, this at a time when prices are high & we have just overtaken India in the Italian market. Other coffee producers are going to go in & outmanoeuvre us. No thought given to those of us who are investing our money in the sector,” he added.

Nsubuga Stephen added: “This is sad, just when people are picking interest in coffee farming and the Buganda kingdom promoting Emwanyi terimba program, this happens.”

Setaala James added: “@rkabushenga I hope you know that all this is systematic and deliberate. Very soon funding to UCDA will be cut sprinkle it with the new coffee law,remember how it was first tabled. It all makes sense now.”

But the Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze sought to calm the farmers’ fears.

“Mr @rkabushenga while I agree with some of ur concerns & even accorded u time to debate them with us at our ministry retreat in NaLI, its important that u don’t portray people as clueless & insensitive. That same UCDA has improved the quality & quantity of coffee exports over years,” he said.

“It’s not in the interests of UCDA to disadvantage our international coffee trade, an area they have invested efforts over years. UCDA is demanding for better terms at ICO, period.  Take time and listen to the issues they raising and perhaps support them as a stakeholder,” he said.