Frustrating season as coffee farmers witness low yields

By this time annually,   Clara Fuacan, a female coffee farmer from Sangi village, Serr Parish Abanga Sub County Zombo District would be smiling to the bank with some cash realised from sales of coffee Cherries from her gardens as the coffee season starts.  She would do this as she plans to pick a bigger portion of the cherries for hurling to get reasonable cash after drying it for some time.

However, unlike the previous seasons, things have totally changed for Fuacan, who predominantly relies on her plantations to buy for her kids scholastic materials and pay school fees, amongst others.

Asked why her coffee plants have not yielded unlike before, The widow told Whisper Eye News that the yield was highly affected by pounding rain with devastating hailstorms late  last year and this year.

” I don’t have coffee this season, this is the first experience I’m witnessing ever since my husband died 10 years ago, the plantations showed some good yield signs but hailstorms destroyed everything. I don’t have money for the kid’s scholastic materials. This is totally a different year ” Fuacan explained.

The situation is not all that different from farmers in other areas where people grow coffee on a large scale.

Manaseh Oyungi, A coffee farmer from Pavur village Serr Parish said the yields are low coupled with low prices. He said this has demoralized him and many other farmers.

“By this time we would be busy selling our Cherries as we expect much yield, this year, you barely see cherries on these trees because we experienced a lot of hailstorms here. It has demoralized most of us” Oyungi revealed.

Currently, even coffee traders are predicting an unfavourable business season. A coffee buyer from Paidha Town Council along Nyondo Road said: ” Look, the store is totally dry, much as the season has just started, by this time, at least we would be having a sack of coffee in our store but we don’t even have half a sack,  It’s going to be a tough season for us and all of us are putting our hope in produce from DR Congo”.

Hophine Pounegi, another coffee farmer is just preparing for next season. He has resorted to pruning and planting crops under the plantations. He is optimistic that next season will come with a different experience.

 ” I don’t think I can get anything, I just need to work on these plantations through pruning and other things. I believe the coming season will come much different” He said whilst walking us through his plantations almost half an acre in Serr Parish Abanga Sub-County.

Coffee is a cash crop predominantly relied on by most farmers seasonally at the bend side of the year in Zombo, some parts of Nebbi and other parts of West Nile.  

Notwithstanding the low yields, a coffee farmer called Justine Okello from central ward Paidha Town wonders why the price is very low currently. He said normally at the beginning of the season, the price of coffee is high.

” Those days at the beginning of the season, the price of coffee would be at Ugx 3,500 per kilogram but the price is just 2000 shs, I don’t know why it’s happening like that ” Okello stressed.

Currently, a kilogram of dry coffee is going between 2000 – 2500 shs per kilogram in rural and urban areas in the district.

A field officer called Quinto Jawotho,  attached to Kawacom Uganda Limited in one of the Sub_Counties in Nebbi told this Publication that the situation of low yields is not any different in Nebbi District. He narrated that this has been their worst season in the last five years.

Jawotho also attributes the low yields to this season’s unfavorable weather pattern noting that the long dry spell of June to July had much implication.

” The problem is many farmers don’t maintain their plantation well, some don’t even care pruning and clearing  bushes  under the trees neither do they care planting shades on the plantations, that’s why we are seeing those things” He said

According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority report, Coffee exports for the financial year 2021/2022 totalled 6.26 million bags worth US$ 862.28 million compared to 6.08 million bags worth US$ 559.16 million the previous year (Financial year 2020/21). 

Arabica exports increased by 62.77% and 174.46% in quantity and value respectively due to an on-year cycle characteristic of Arabica coffee production. Arabica fetched an average price of US$ 4.41 per kilo. Okoro CP/B from West Nile sold at the highest price of US$ 7.23 per kilo.

Additional Reporting by Ofoymungu Lee