Uganda to Plant Disease-Resistant Coffee Trees to Boost Output

  • Nation plans to plant 900 million new trees by June 2019
  • Wilt-resistant trees part or target to boost output fivefold

Uganda, Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, will plant trees resistant to the wilt disease in the next three years as part of a plan to boost production fivefold by 2020.

The nation has developed seven strains of the robusta variety and started distributing seedlings to farmers, Henry Ngabirano, the outgoing managing director of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, said Wednesday in an interview in Kampala, the capital. The disease only affects robusta crops.

Wilt has destroyed more than half of Uganda’s robusta trees since 1993. Since then, the country has been replacing affected trees, as well as old and less productive ones, bringing the disease largely under control. The nation plans to plant 900 million new higher-yielding trees in the next three years, helping boost coffee output to 20 million bags, Ngabirano said.

At least 80 percent of the new seedlings will be of the robusta variety, the bean type used in instant coffee, and some trees will start yielding by the second year, the regulator said. Robusta accounts for about 80 percent of Uganda’s coffee output.

Production in the 12 months through September next year is expected to climb 5 percent to 4.2 million bags, the authority said. Each bag weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds).

While the nation is Africa’s second-biggest coffee producer, after Ethiopia, it consumes less than 3 percent of its crop, the regulator said. Uganda is targeting boosting its per-capita consumption by about 40 percent within five years, according to Ngabirano, whose 15-year contract ends this month.

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