Uganda Holds Its First Coffee Auction in Bid to Promote Quality

  • Three-day online auction to start Tuesday, be an annual event
  • Auction will be for arabica; Uganda is boosting coffee output

Uganda, Africa’s biggest coffee exporter, will start its first ever coffee auction on Tuesday amid a push to promote the quality of its beans as it boosts production.

Small quantities of top Ugandan arabica coffee will be offered in an online auction to 10 countries including the U.S., Australia, Asian nations, a European country and two from Africa, according to Martin Maraka, program manager at the African Fine Coffees Association, the organizer. The three-day auction will become an annual event, he said by phone.

Arabica, which accounts for about a fifth of Uganda’s output, is typically of a higher quality than robusta and is favored for specialty drinks such as those made by Starbucks. The country’s coffee exports have rebounded from several years of declines, and Uganda is targeting grabbing more of the overseas market as it plans to more than quadruple output by 2025.

“Uganda hasn’t been seen as a home for high quality coffee,”’ Maraka said. The auction “will encourage quality as it will be rewarded highly,” he said.

In mid-July, the country will hold tests of top robusta crops to showcase premium qualities of the variety to help dispel the notion that robusta should only be used for blending, Maraka said.

“Robusta is not seen as premium coffee in the world,” he said. “Uganda should lead the way in starting competitions for robusta.”

Uganda consumes only around 3 percent of its annual coffee crop and exports the bulk of its supplies to nations including those in Europe, Sudan, India, Algeria, Morocco and the U.S., according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.

Ethiopia, the continent’s biggest producer of the crop, Kenya and Tanzania largely export their coffee through auctions.

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