Heavy rains may mar quality of Ugandan coffee crop: official

KAMPALA (Reuters) – The quality of Uganda’s coffee crop may decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the east African nation have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying, an industry official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains that are among the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

“The drying process is a major problem in most of the places…the weather is not good for drying,” David Muwonge, head of marketing at the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farmer Enterprises (NUCAFE) told Reuters.

“There’s a higher risk of beans becoming mouldy unless farmers are well sensitised.”

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16% to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

Muwonge said the damage to transport infrastructure by the rains and flooding was likely slow the flow of beans from farms and collection centres from some of the deep rural areas.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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