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How could increased coffee consumption in Uganda help the industry?

The primary purpose of the majority of the green coffee beans grown in Uganda is for them to be sold to international roasters and exported to other countries.

Coffee is this country's main agricultural export, with approximately 1.5 million local households working in the industry.

However, coffee farmers in the region are now calling on the Ugandan government to encourage greater consumption of the beverage in the country, as they believe this could lead to an increased amount of bean processing taking place there, which in turn may result in more jobs and a boost to the local economy.

We at DR Wakefield have a keen interest in any measures that could benefit coffee growers in developing countries, so let's explore this in more depth.

The Ugandan Observer reports how executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) Joseph Nkandu outlined his opinions on domestic consumption of coffee at the third annual National Forum on Agriculture and Food Security at the Sheraton hotel.

This event was organised by the Economic Policy Research Centre and aimed to inform people working in the agricultural industry about the potential surrounding growing coffee in the more northerly parts of Uganda. 

Mr Nkandu is quoted as stating: "We need to work with government to upscale the level at which our processed coffee is locally consumed. If more coffee is consumed domestically, it will encourage players into processing."

According to figures from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority – of which executive director Henry Ngabirano supports Mr Nkandu's proposals – the average amount of coffee grown in the country each year equates to around three million bags per year, but only three per cent is consumed by local people.

In Brazil – the world's biggest coffee producing country – the consumption of beans produced locally is around 50 per cent, which is something Uganda wishes to emulate to improve its foothold in the market. 

Nr Nkandu noted Brazil only achieved this level of domestic consumption following a government campaign to promote the benefits of doing so to local people and believes Uganda could achieve similar success if it takes a leaf out of its coffee-growing book.

He explained: "In Uganda, where coffee-processing technology is not very advanced, a kilogram of green coffee costs 4,000 Ugandan shillings. And when processed into roasted and ground coffee, it produces no less than 80 cups each, meaning that a lot is lost in selling raw coffee."

Last year, 3.58 million bags of beans were produced in the country, with a value equivalent to $433 million (£254 million), which was a significant increase on the previous 12 months' sum of $393 million. 

However, Mr Nkandu and others in the industry believe these figures could be improved greatly if local consumption is given more support by the government, meaning not only will farmers get to experience the exquisite taste of the produce they work so hard to grow, but it could also result in a significant boost for the Ugandan economy.