Coffee Farming in Uganda

Uganda’s reputation as a fast growing coffee country is rising rapidly because of the climatic conditions and rich soils that favour coffee farming. Coffee was once a top cash crop in the country although at the moment it has been neglected and has not competed on the international market in a very long time. Coffee in Uganda is almost grown in all the regions however there are main regions like eastern Uganda and south western Uganda that produce coffee on a large scale. There are companies that have helped in coffee production in Uganda and these are the Kyagalanyi coffee limited which has constructed wet mills for washing the coffee cherries and the Great Lakes coffee company that has helped in processing and exporting of coffee from Uganda to other countries.

coffee plantation uganda

Varieties of coffee grown in Uganda

Robusta coffee

is one of the varieties of coffee that is grown in Uganda and it normally grows around the Lake Victoria basin. It was introduced into the country in the 1990s and became indigenous to the local people. It mainly grows in places with a high altitude above sea level as compared to the Arabica coffee and it is mainly known for its high level of bitterness and low acidity. Robusta coffee grows abundantly and the good thing about growing it is that it is disease resistant and can give the farmer 100% yields in profits.

There are two types of Robusta coffee that are grown in Uganda and these are the Nganda and Erecta coffee. These two Robusta varieties grow faster, have a high yield rate and have a bigger bean. Despite the fact that Robusta coffee grows faster, it is not popular on the Ugandan market and this is due to the fact that it is extremely bitter.

Arabica coffee

also grown in Uganda is extremely competitive on the international market but it does not grow well in harsh conditions. It is mainly grown in slightly raised areas and in Uganda, it is mainly grown in areas like the Rwenzori Mountains, mountain Elgon and the west Nile region. The coffee varieties that are grown in Uganda include Robusta-screen 15, Arabica-Bugisu A, Arabica- Bugisu AA, Arabica-Bugisu PB, Arabica –Drugar and Arabica-Bugisu B.

Land selection

selection of land is one of the first steps into coffee production in Uganda. With the many varieties that are grown in the country, you need to look for land that is suitable for the growth of coffee in an environment that has favourable weather conditions. Things that you should consider while choosing land for coffee production include the following:

  • Select land that has deep fertile soils, soils that are rich in organic matter which can easily self-drain.
  • The land should be gently sloppy and you need to avoid steep slopes
  • After getting the land, clear out all the vegetation in the land and any other stumps that might affect the growth of coffee
  • When the land is finally cleared, dig holes that are up to 60cm deep and then add compost manure to fully prepare the land but this should be done at least three months prior to the initial planting stage.
  • The two varieties that are Robusta and Arabica have a different spacing when planting and this should be followed to ease the harvesting period. The spacing between Robusta coffee should at least be 8 by 8 feet and for Arabica coffee it should be 10 by 10 feet.
  • Mix the manure with the top soil from the holes and then fill the hole with the mixture two months before planting.
  • After filling the holes, fix a stick in the middle of the hole to note where exactly the seeds will be placed during planting and then after that, the land will be ready for coffee planting.

coffee growing uganda

Growing conditions for coffee in Uganda

Uganda has good and favorable conditions for coffee growing. It has some of the best fertile soils and the availability of enough rainfall which is received all throughout the year. The main five regions where coffee is grown in Uganda include the following:

  • The western part of Uganda in districts like Mbarara and Kasese
  • West Nile region
  • Eastern and central regions
  • Northern region in Gulu and Lira.

Ugandan coffee can be processed when it is either wet or dry and both extractions create a rich taste. Uganda has some of the best coffee production but has not yet breached the international market due to various factors like insecurities in the country, low production of coffee and less knowledge of the coffee market by the local farmers.

Dry processing of coffee

this has different stages and these have been listed below

  1. Separate the good coffee beans from the bad ones, remove the stones and twigs and all this should be done during harvesting.
  2. Dry the beans under the sun and keep on changing them so that they all dry. When the moisture reaches 14% it is time to remove the beans from under the sun.
  3. Hulling is the next process and this is where the beans are placed in a machine and the husks removed. It is advisable that you use a moderate speed while hulling because if the speed is too high, the beans become shinier but they might end up breaking.

Wet processing of coffee

  1. Separate the ripe cherries from the ones that are not ready and this is best done by submerging them in water. The unripe ones will float on top of the water while the ready ones will remain at the bottom.
  2. The next step is to remove the beans from the cherries and this is known as pulping and after pulping, the beans are washed to remove the sticky substance from the beans.
  3. The beans are then placed on drying tables until they dry.
  4. The next step is hulling and during this process, the parchment covering the beans is removed.

The most common process that is used for coffee is the washed process although there are other processes that are used by the locals like the natural process which is cheap and easy for the local farmers.

coffee flowers uganda

Pests and diseases that affect coffee

some of the most common pests that have affected coffee yields in Uganda include the coffee twig borer which creates a hole in the stem of the coffee, the coffee berry borer, root rot disease, meal bugs, Nematodes, bacterial blight and brown eye spot among others. Diseases that affect coffee include coffee leaf rust, pink disease, coffee wilt among others. The best way to prevent pests and diseases is through proper management of the farm, spraying of pesticides and fungicides and also mulching the farm to control the weeds.

Harvesting of  Coffee

Coffee is harvested using the method of hand picking. When the cherries change colour from green to a deep red, it means that it is time to remove the beans from the coffee tree.  There are two harvests in a year for coffee and the first one is from April to June whereas the second harvest is from October to February.