Understanding constraints to value addition in the Ugandan coffee sector

Project Active from to Firms

  • Uganda has the highest concentration of coffee farmers in the world, but premiums from the sector are not as high as other East African countries.
  • Identifying quick wins and long-term changes, this project explored the lack of brand awareness of Ugandan coffee and limited sales in certain markets. 
  • Key recommendations include developing a unique brand for coffee produced in Uganda and establishing a market mediator between local and international players in the coffee industry.

Top quality Ugandan Arabica coffees are among the best coffees in the world, yet the Uganda coffee sector arguably underperforms compared to other coffee-exporting countries. This project was requested by the Government of Uganda in December 2016 to provide insight into constraints to value addition in Uganda’s coffee sector, along with recommendations to enhance the visibility of Ugandan coffee in high value export markets. The government expressed frustration at the lack of awareness of Ugandan Arabica coffee in high value export markets. Linked to that, they believed premiums earned by Ugandan coffee were not as high as from other East African countries.

The research team explored why there is a lack of brand awareness of Ugandan coffee combined with limited sales to certain markets. An initial analysis of Ugandan coffee volumes, pricing, export locations, and quality statistics seemed broadly to confirm the Ugandan officials’ opinions.

The team also interviewed coffee traders who confirmed the low level of awareness of Ugandan Arabica. By raising awareness among end consumers and improving both awareness and the forms of contracting with the trade, the premiums earned by Ugandan coffee can be increased.

Researchers focused on the awareness of Ugandan Arabica as this is the product most valued in consumer markets. Arabica is mostly grown in the west of the country, so researchers additionally recommended that recent efforts by the government to improve primary processing in the east of the country should also be extended west.