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Uganda Keeps Coffee-Output Target Amid Disease, Climate Change

Uganda Keeps Coffee-Output Target
A farmer surveys his Arabica coffee plants grown in the shade of banana trees on a small plantation in western Uganda. Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg

Uganda, Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, is maintaining its target to boost production to 4.5 million bags by 2015 even as it faces challenges from rising temperatures and coffee-wilt disease, an industry body said.

The East African nation plans to begin planting seven strains of robusta-variety trees that are resistant to coffee wilt, while climate change will partly be combated by irrigation programs, said Edmund Kananura Kyerere, quality and regulatory manager at the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.

“We are still targeting increased production,” Kyerere said in an interview at the African Fine Coffee Conference in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, yesterday. “The target is still 4.5 million bags.”

Uganda exported 3.14 million 60-kilogram (132-pound) bags of coffee in 2011, ranking the country as the world’s ninth-biggest shipper of the beans, according to data on the International Coffee Organization’s website. Robusta beans, which are used in espressos and instant drinks, account for about 85 percent of the nation’s annual production, according to the authority.

Output in Uganda has declined from 4.4 million bags in 1996-97 partly because of damage caused by coffee-wilt disease. The fungus that predominantly affects the robusta variety of coffee was first detected in Uganda in 1993 and destroyed about 150 million trees, according to the UCDA.

Uganda hopes to plant 200 million trees resistant to the disease “within 10 years,” Kyerere said.

The authority is campaigning to change the “negative image” of coffee among Ugandans, he said. The annual increase in domestic consumption may double to 4 percent next year. “There are a lot of cafes coming up,” said Kyerere.

Robusta coffee futures have risen 20 percent so far this year and traded 1.1 percent higher at $2,167 a metric ton on the NYSE Liffe exchange in New York yesterday.

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