The National Coffee Act of 2018: A sour cup of Coffee or just another Robusta?
It is hard to see any significant change of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, as the law of 1994 is planned to be repealed, as the Cabinet accepted a new bill yesterday at the State House. Let me explain, It would seem more reasonable, if someone leaked the text of the law, but the short tide bottlenecks of information leaked. That information is showing, that it is more of the same. Just some new buzz-words, to keep the donors buzzing.
Since the UCDA are already in charge of monitoring, pricing and promoting coffee, both internally and externally. They are supposed to help raise the quality of the coffee and educate farmers, both in production of better coffee, but also raise the yields for the cash-crop. The UCDA is rally a state organized body in both education, trade and promoting of coffee. Where all parts of the transaction from the seedlings to the trade of the ready beans has been in connection with the government body.
That is why the Cabinet decision that is released to the public, the one page dossier, as the law and the new provisions aren’t out, but if these footnotes are the realization of the changes from 1994 to become the new law in 2018. There are really just putting in the word sustainable and harmonize the roles of all the roles. Which is fancy lingo, for making sure everyone along the line is taxed and made sure they pay for the government services. Since they are already having the mandate by the law of 1994.
As sub-section 4 in the UCDA Act of 1994 states:
“The functions of the authority shall be— to issue certificates in respect of the grade and quantity of coffee; to register in accordance with guidelines issued by the Minister, from time to time, on the advice of the board, all organisations and bodies applying to market coffee; to liaise with the Bank of Uganda in respect of repatriation of foreign exchange obtained from the sale of coffee; to set the quality control standards under which coffee is sold; to certify all coffee exports; to collect, maintain and disseminate statistical data in respect of all aspects of the coffee industry; to advise the Government on the mechanism for determining the minimum price for the sale of coffee; (h) to monitor world market price changes and adjust the minimum price on a day-to-day basis to reflect the changes; (i) to research and make extension arrangements through the Ministry responsible for agriculture or any other organisation established in the country for the purpose; (j) to reconcile coffee subsector policies with the macroeconomic policies of the Government; (k) to liaise with the International Coffee Organisation and be responsible for the administration of the stamps of the organisation; (l) to liaise with other international organisations and promote Uganda’s coffee on the world market; (m) to be responsible for the overall supervision of the coffee subsector, including related industries, and advise the Government on coffee subsector policies; (n) to organise training for technicians, coffee processors and quality controllers” (CHAPTER 325 THE UGANDA COFFEE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY ACT, 1994).
So when I read from the spreadsheet from the Cabinet meeting at the State House, where the gist is to replace the 325, because they want to development of competitive, equitable and sustainable coffee, promote Coffee research, good Coffee farming practices, domestic coffee consumption and add value to the Coffee. Also, provide the Authority regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the Coffee Value Chain, streamline and harmonize the institution in the development of the Coffee Sector and to promote the Coffee sub-sector.
As what I see, the UCDA Act of 1994, not only hold the grabbing hands on all of this, but the mandate of the Authority is already, just not managed well, apparently. If the state cared about the Authority, they wouldn’t lack needed staff, as the Auditor General Report of December 2016, said the staff had 29 open positions, I don’t know if its as bad today, but wouldn’t be shocked if there was openings that the UCDA couldn’t fill, because of lack of funds.
What is striking to me, is that what the Cabinet Meeting of 21st May 2018, is what is in the statute of 1994. It just using a few different words, but if they cared about the UCDA, they would fund it properly and also actually have proper oversight of the operations. As the UCDA has often given away bad seedlings to Coffee farmers, in the same fashion as the Operation Wealth Creations has to its SACCO’s around the Republic. Like the Auditor General report of December 2016 says: “ Failure to plant and maintain coffee seedlings that were distributed and received by the farmers is wastage of Government Funds and eventually leads to failure to achieve planned coffee outputs at national level. Further, beneficiary lists withfarmers that never received inputs may be an indicator of irregular dealings on the part of seedling suppliers” (AG Report on UCDA December 2016, P: 19).
Therefore, the changing of words within the law is not fixing the remedy of the goodwill to generate more coffee and better yields. It is actually giving the king, what the king needs. That is not more fancy lingo, but actually actions and funds, also accountability, so that the farmers and the other part of the coffee production chain. Can all benefit from the Authority. On December 2017, the MoFPED delivered the National Budget Framework, which said this: “Continued implementation of the Coffee 2020 road map aimed at achieving 20million bags of 60Kg each per annum, including supporting research interventions at the National Agricultural Coffee Research Institute (NACORI) to produce high yielding coffee varieties and disease resistant tissue culture plants for coffee as well as development of a National Coffee Bill, 2017 that focuses on developing the entire coffee value chain and enable the country consolidate its dominant position in export earnings and employment” (MoFPED, P: 18, December 2017).
Therefore, the Cabinet meeting has initially decided to follow the guidelines of the National Budget Framework, as it was in December 2017. That is not surprising, but what is weird is the wording and how little change it is from the original law, that they are repealing. Unless, they have some magical formula sprinkled over it, making it a beautiful cake, instead of a boring bun with a little whipped cream. Because that is what it seems.
If you read the objectives of 1994, it doesn’t seem so far away from 2018, does it?
“The objectives of the authority shall be— to promote, improve and monitor marketing of coffee with a view to optimising foreign exchange earnings and payments to the farmers; to control the quality of coffee in order to ensure that all coffee exported meets the standards stipulated by the contract between the seller and the buyer; to monitor the price of coffee in order to ensure that no export contract for the sale of coffee is concluded at a price below the minimum price; to develop and promote the coffee and other related industries through research and extension arrangements; to promote the marketing of coffee as a final product; (f) to promote domestic consumption of coffee” (UCDA Act of 1994).
That seems a lot like the spreadsheet of the Cabinet from yesterday, right?
Its only the value chain and add value on the coffee that is very new, but the rest more of the same. I am baffled or even shocked by this. It is like the Cabinet haven’t read the old bill or cared about the provisions there and thought. Maybe we should have better oversight of the Authority, instead they are changing wording and thinking that is magic wand to change the current predicament. If they wanted real change, they would have reformed the organization internally and used the provisions already there. But it is easier to make a leaflet, than change people’s mind and allocate funds.
Good morning and smell the coffee, well, I smell it, but more of the same. Just attached “sustainable” on the package, but taste is the same as yesterday. Peace.