A coffee processing company in Kasese district is offering farmers better prices for their coffee following the decreased production in the last two weeks.
Several coffee farmers in Kasese have, in the past, reported being unable to take their coffee to market due to transport restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One such farmer, Jerome Kule, a resident of Kathoma in Karambi sub-county, says that they have decided to stay home with their coffee out of fear of being arrested for defying the presidential directive should they move with it to the processors’ factories.
“If any processor is willing to pick the coffee from my home, then I am ready to sell since I will not be charged by security; otherwise we are doing badly financially,” he said.
In response, some companies have opted to raise their buying price for coffee in the hope of luring more farmers to bring in their coffee.
According to Tonny Rowland, Managing Director of Agri Evolve, a leading processor and exporter of Arabica coffee in the Rwenzori region, the company is now buying a kilogram of fresh red berries at 1100-1300, depending on distance, up from Shs. 900- 1000.
The Agri Evolve MD says the company’s production volumes have dropped significantly as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“The current situation with the Coronavirus has affected our volumes by 50%,” he revealed, adding that the company was deploying extra resources to help farmers get their coffee to the factory.
“Because we cannot reach every farmer individually, we decided to increase the prices so as to encourage farmers to bring their coffee as we attempt to meet the increased coffee demand across the globe,” Rowland said, adding that vehicles and donkeys had been cleared to transport coffee from any part of Rwenzori region to the factory at Kisinga town council.
“Our aim is to stimulate coffee business and support farmers to come out of this quarantine unscathed, without breaking presidential directives,” Rowland noted.
Bazilio Muhindo , the company’s Quality Assurance Controller, called upon the famers to observe the official curfew times as they harvest their coffee or bring it for sale.
“We are open from 7am to 7pm, and only allow one or two famers inside at a time, in line with the Standard Operating Procedures we were given by the RDC, Kasese district,” Muhindo said.
Unlike most other businesses that were ordered to close in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, factories were allowed to keep operating on condition that they followed the Ministry of Health’s operational guidelines.