The Minister of Foreign Affairs Gen Jeje Odongo has said the Covid19 pandemic has had an impact on coffee value chain affecting farmers, processors, exporters, baristas, roasters, coffee shops and beyond.
He was speaking Wednesday at the Virtual Uganda-Saudi Arabia Expo held at Foreign Affairs ministry in the capital Kampala.
The event is just a few days after the celebration of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s National Day.
“It is our hope that the forum enhances the synergies towards the achievement of aspirations of our two countries to build more on the existing historical relationship,” Gen Odongo said.
He said coffee earnings are transformational for Uganda and hence the need to focus on coffee production and exports.
President Museveni in 2014 gave a directive to accelerate coffee production from the 3.5 million 60kg bags to 20 million bags of green coffee by the year 2025.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) responded by creating a roadmap focused at improving productivity on farm and agro-processing.
Uganda exports of coffee husks to Saudi Arabia was a paltry $419.3 thousand during the year 2020 which needs to improve as Saudi Arabia is the fastest growing market in the Middle East.
The market is projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.2% during 2021-27 which the minister called an opportunity for businessmen and women of both countries.
He lauded Uganda’s great investment environment which allows full repatriation of profits after mandatory taxes. He said the minimum capital required for a foreign investor is $100,000.
He thanked the expo organisers for being forward looking and bringing everyone together to appreciate Uganda’s coffee production and export potential.
Speaking at the same event, H.E. Isaac Ssebulime BIRUMA, Ambassador of the Republic of Uganda to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, promised to initiate arrangements to create the Saudi-Uganda Business Council which he believes is a vehicle to drive business between the two brotherly nations.
This is a historical occasion as, for the first time, businessmen from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uganda have come together to chart ways of increasing trade between the two countries, noted the ambassador.
“What is more significant is that we are targeting coffee, which is not only a commodity but an item of cultural significance in the two countries. It occupies a special position in human relations in our communities.”
Robusta coffee has its origin in Uganda hence the country has evolved some of the best husbandry practices leading to production of 7 million 60kg bags.
He said coffee occupies key cultural role in relations among individuals, communities and clans and when mutually shared, it serves to consolidate relations and is the first item on the menu for that special visitor in any home.
Most importantly, it is becoming a lifestyle beverage in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a specialty segment that Uganda can service.
According to the United Nations COMTRADE Database, Saudi Arabia imported from Uganda goods worth $6.85m in 2019. Uganda imported from Saudi Arabia goods worth $33.23m in the same year.
Despite its abundance in Uganda, coffee was less than $1m worth of this total because the common membership of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is still very low.