The International Coffee Organization (ICO) has responded to the withdrawal of Uganda from the International Coffee Agreement 2007 (ICA 2007), effectively ending its participation in the ICO.
Earlier this month, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) issued a public statement outlining seven reasons for leaving the international agreement, including unfair tariffs, restrictions on exporting processed coffee and an “unjust and outdated” coffee classification system.
Unbalanced tariffs are an ongoing concern in the global coffee market, with a 2020 ICO report finding processed coffee imported to Uganda is subject to a 60 per cent tariff while other countries, including European Union, Norway and Japan, pay low or zero rates.
However, the ICO response asserts tariffs are under the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organisation, and argues its regular reports on obstacles to consumption are a valuable tool for countries negotiating better terms within free trade agreements.
The statement says other specific Ugandan concerns, including barriers to exporting “value-added” processed products, are currently under review by a working group established in 2019 to update and reform the current Agreement.
“Ugandan representatives have not been actively participating in this process and have never submitted any proposal for change based on their vision and interest, nor on the issues raised in the UCDA statement of 9 February,” the ICO says in a statement.
The ICO says its doors will always be open if and when Uganda decides to rejoin the ICA and ICO. The full ICO statement is available online.
Uganda’s ambitious coffee roadmap
Uganda is aggressively growing its coffee industry with new laws tightening regulations for growers and producers, and government programs distributing millions of new coffee seedlings to farmers.
In the last financial year Uganda saw record growth in coffee exports, earning a reported US$629.8 million.
“In the next five years, we want to see coffee exports reaching 20 million bags,” said the UCDA’s Managing Director Emmanuel Iyamulemyein in a statement issued in late 2021.
“Uganda is the 8th largest coffee producer in the world. Our desire is to get to the second or third position,” said Dr Iyamulemyein.