There has been a silent but brawling debate over Uganda’s cocoa export volumes, and the value in particular. Now, a report by Swisscontact, a non-governmental organisation, indicates that the country earns more than was expected.
The 2015 annual report, Improving Markets for Honey and Cocoa Value Chains in Uganda, reveals: “Since July 2015, cocoa is ranked the fourth foreign exchange earner after coffee, fish and tea and about 26,412 metric tonnes of cocoa were exported by December 2015 fetching a total export earnings from cocoa of [$72.536m] (Shs244.3b).”
This latest figure is contrary to the earlier reports from Ministry of Agriculture showing the revenue from cocoa exports as $67m. In addition, according to the Swisscontact report, about 25,000 hectares are covered with cocoa trees and more than three million cocoa trees were planted from 2004/2005 to 2014/2015. A major contributor to this was the Cocoa Development Project (CDP).
However, the distribution and planting declined around 2005-2009 but this affected neither production volumes, exports nor value from marketed volumes.
The report also highlights that other new districts have been listed by the ministry of agriculture as suitable for growing cocoa. These include Masindi, Mityana, Mpigi, Kayunga and Bukomansimbi, among others.
Government under the Naad programme has a target of 50,000 hectares of cocoa and more than 15,000 famers involved by end of 2020.
“The crop is performing well but little consideration is given to support the cocoa industry. By last financial year, cocoa was not listed among the twelve priority crops despite it being here (Uganda) since colonial days” noted Carol Asiimwe, the project manager, Swisscontact.
A 2014/2015 policy statement from Ministry of Agriculture, cocoa exports more than doubled in the first half of 2013/2014 financial year putting the figure at 9,973 metric tonnes from 4,727 metric tonnes, which was exported in the first half of 2012/2013 financial year.
However, the 2012-2014 studies from CDP also rank cocoa among the high value export commodities that offer opportunities for increasing domestic incomes and foreign exchange earnings. For instance, production and export earnings from cocoa increased from 6,000 metric tonnes worth $8.7m (Shs29.3b) in 2005 to about 22,010 metric tonnes in 2013/2014.
While current world price is about $3,000 (Shs9.9m) per tonne, the farm-gate price for dry bean fluctuates between Shs6,000 and Shs8,500 per kilo depending on location.
Asiimwe mentioned that the number of cocoa growers is steadily growing with more districts coming on board.
But there is still a need for smallholder farmers to work together to avoid being price takers in addition to addressing quality, diseases and pests which are issues even faced by the already organised groups.
“Save for areas like Bundibugyo, in other parts of the country, farmers still work as lone rangers. This makes them vulnerable to exploitative middlemen. Farmers need to form cohesive groups with the ability to discuss with various stakeholders,” she advised.
Semliki cooperative union in Bundibugyo has been able to influence the market dynamics in the area; the result is that buyers pay at least 85 per cent of the international price to the cocoa growers.
“In Bundibugyo District, for instance, there are 3,000 smallholder farmers organised in 51 producer cooperatives. There are also 12 cooperatives registered with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, and the number is growing,” said Methodius Balyesiima, the general secretary, Uganda Cocoa Association.
Credit: All Africa