Uganda is Africa's second largest coffee producer behind Ethiopia
and has become a major player in robusta production after political
unrest in former top grower Ivory Coast cut output.
The east African country's production has been recovering after the
government initiated a replanting exercise in 2005 following a bout of
Coffee Wilt disease in 1996.
"According to our research on the epidemic curve of the Coffee Wilt
disease, soon it will hit the farms because the farmers have used
susceptible materials which cannot be protected from an outbreak," said
Kangire Africano, Director of Uganda's Kituuza Coffee Research Center.
"We expect a 35 percent reduction in production and the country will lose $150 million in export revenues."
Uganda earned $272 million from coffee exports in 2007/8, he said.
In February, an official of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority
told Reuters he expected production at 2.85 million bags in 2007/08
from 2.7 million bags in the previous crop year.
Kangire said the disease was affecting the majority of the coffee
farmers countrywide and blamed the outbreak on planting of wilt-prone
trees in 2005.
"This was a mistake. In the mass planting exercise in 2005, farmers
mainly planted coffee that is not resistant to the wilt disease, now we
have started getting reports of wilt case which might be the start of
an epidemic," he said.
The emergence of the disease in 1996 drastically reduced the
production from 4.2 million bags in 1996/97. By 2002, the disease had
affected at least 90 percent of robusta farms and destroyed over 45
percent of the crop, he said.
In the early 1990s, scientists developed a new variety that was a
mix of robusta and arabica. It matured in less than two years and had a
higher output per acre but was sucspectible to the disease.
EXTINCT IN UGANDA
Kangire said growing coffee under shade could avert the threat of
extinction for Uganda's coffee in the face of raising global
Earlier in July, the British charity Oxfam said changing weather
patterns in Uganda could lead to the extinction of the country's coffee
in about three decades.
"Global increase in temperatures is likely to cut production by 80
percent mainly in central Uganda and that will be catastrophic but
farmers can start growing coffee under shade and once this culture is
developed, Uganda coffee can survive the climate change impact," he
Kangire said his institution and the Ugandan National Agricultural
Research Organization (NARO) were developing new drought resistant
"Using bio-technology, we … are almost breaking through on new
drought resistant varieties of coffee which once developed will be
distributed to all coffee farmers countrywide."