July 17, 2008

Reports Claims Ugandan Coffee Could Disappear In 30 Years

A report by British charity Oxfam said on Thursday that changing weather patterns in Uganda may lead to the extinction of the east African country's key export, coffee, in coming decades.

Second to Ethiopia, Uganda is Africa's biggest coffee producer and has become a major player in robusta coffee production after political unrest in former top grower Ivory Coast slashed output.

The report detailed that the struggling country's coffee output looks bleak. "If the average global temperatures rise by two degrees or more, then most of Uganda is likely to cease to be suitable for coffee."

Experts believe this could happen in as little as 30 or 40 years.

The report, "Turning up the heat, Climate Change and Poverty in Uganda," said effects of global warming like increasing temperatures, more intense rains and storms, had led to erratic rainfall patterns in Uganda.

In the months of Oct-Sept of 2007/08, coffee output is seen at 2.85 million bags, up from 2.7 million the year before.

The report said that according to the United Nations Environmental Program, only patches of land on the periphery will still be able to grow coffee...In the meantime, coffee farmers are going to have to adapt to rising temperatures.

Much of the country of Uganda has a bimodal climate, meaning that there are two rainy seasons"” the first from March to June and the second from October/November to December/January.

During the rainy seasons, rainfall has become unreliable and reduced rain during the March to June season was causing drought, reductions in crop yields and plant varieties.

Rainfall in the late season was coming in more intense and destructive downpours, bringing floods, landslides and soil erosion, according to the report.

Philip Gitao, head of the East African Fine Coffees Association, said farmers have still continued to invest in Uganda's Robusta coffee and export earnings have continued to increase. This has helped protect losses from climatic problems.

Gitao said farmers have also adopted good husbandry practices such as using more hardy coffee plants.