Uganda continues to rely on the international market for its coffee produce. Uganda is the largest Robusta coffee producer in Africa and most of it is exported to markets in Europe, USA and the Middle East.
In 2013 alone, coffee exports totaled 3.6million bags valued at about 425 Million United States Dollars. On the domestic scene however, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), consumption is estimated at about 200,000 bags per year.
Coffee consumption figures in Uganda are still far off from other traditional drinks like tea. Dr Ezra Munyambonera is a Senior Research Fellow and until 2011, he worked with UCDA in drafting the Coffee Policy. He points out that Uganda is not a traditionally coffee drinking country. In the last 10years, domestic coffee consumption has grown from 1percent to 2percent of total coffee produced. In an interview Munyambonera told this paper that it is better for Uganda to keep exporting coffee.
Around Kampala, coffee shops are sprouting. These, according to Joseph Nkandu, the Executive Director National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farmers Enterprises-NUCAFE will be the major source of coffee consumption.
He says that in the last 10 years, one could hardly find a coffee shop, but now the market has in excess of ten. He points out that the high quality coffee is mostly exported, whereas the low grade one is consumed in Uganda.
At some popular coffee shops in Uganda like Café Javas, Café Pap and Mocca Terrace, the price of an African Tea pot is usually at least between 1000 and 2000 Uganda Shillings cheaper than African Coffee Pot. Additionally, the packing of instant coffee, usually in a tin of 250 grams, is still more expensive than tea.
Henry Ngabirano, the Executive Director UCDA, is of the view that as incomes of Ugandans improve; domestic coffee consumption will also grow significantly.
He states that coffee in this country is considered to be more expensive than tea and that there is perception that coffee is bad for people’s health. Several coffee shop owners we talked to pointed out that there has been increased demand for coffee partly driven by a rise in the expatriate community.
In a recently submitted National Coffee Strategy, UCDA points to boosting marketing and campaigns in order for more people to consume coffee grown in their country. Brands like Star Café and Good African Coffee are already making their rounds in Ugandan supermarkets. These are locally produced brands and are competing with international brands like Nescafe.
There is increasing pressure on coffee producers to add value to the coffee before it is exported, if Uganda is to earn more from this crop.