Parliament Rejects Gov’t Proposal To Regulate, Tax Coffee Farmers

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday, July, 29, 2020  overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by government to de-register coffee farmers that reportedly fail to meet the standards set by government in the coffee production chain and by producing low quality coffee.

The proposal is provided for in the National Coffee Bill 2018, which seeks to mandate the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to oversee the subsector by registering and licensing all coffee farmers.

Clause 28 of the Bill provides for de-registration of farmers who do not meet the terms and conditions of registration. These terms, provided for in clause 26, include evaluation of the land by the authority to deem it suitable for coffee growing, and capturing the farmers’ details.

The proposal has since met opposition from many players, who view the Bill as a move by government to have strict control over coffee business.

MPs argued that government cannot strip Ugandans, who have long depended on the crop for their livelihood and have called for the clause to be deleted.
“I want to know if as government you are going to provide seeds to every farmer of coffee and because you have given the seeds, you’ll control how they manage the farm,” Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said.

She added: “What you are setting is a precedent where somebody can come to my banana garden and say this garden is not good, I am deregistering you… this is a private sector activity, how does government come in? Why don’t you leave the issue of deregistration?”
Kampala Cental MP Muhammad Nsereko said the move would kill the notion of entrepreneurship among Ugandans, who have agriculture as a source of livelihood.

Rubaga North MP Moses Kasibante said: “You cannot deregister me for what you call poor quality when traditionally, it is the best quality for me.”

Ms Flavia Byekwaso, a UPDF representative, urged the ministry to first deal with its own problems before going after the far mers.

Production
Statistics from UCDA indicate that 158 million bags of coffee were produced in the 2017/2018 financial year, putting Uganda as the eighth coffee producer in the world.

Government has, however, argued that lack of regulation devalues the product. Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira, the UCDA managing director, said the minister has a chance to recommit the proposal, adding that there is need to clearly explain the proposal.
to Ugandans.

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