Starbucks Is Making Uganda’s Small Scale Coffee Farmers Richer

Starbucks Is Making Uganda’s Small Scale Coffee Farmers Richer

Coffee is big business in East Africa with countries like Ethiopia and Uganda leading the continent in terms of the commodity export. It’s no wonder US-based world largest coffee house, Starbucks, looked no further than the green hills of Uganda when it wanted a new coffee brand.

Starbucks interest in Uganda’s single-origin beans with a distinct flavour, sourced from the eastern Mount Elgon region known as the “Sipi-Falls”, is expected to boost earnings for small scale farmers in the East African nation.

“It is extremely exciting that Ugandan coffee is occupying Starbucks’ shelves,” Henry Ngabirano, managing director of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), told Bloomberg. “We are going to have more coffee earnings and improve farmers’ incomes.”

According to a TIME report, hundreds of farmers in slopes of Mount Elgon have been growing this premium coffee beans since 2007 when they sold their first produce to Starbuck.

UCDA however estimate that only one percent of the price paid for a cup of African coffee in stores like Starbucks actually ends up in the hands of local farmers. The effect of Starbucks direct buys is nonetheless being felt locally, it said.

Although other smaller coffee houses in Europe already sell Ugandan beans, Ngabirano says, Starbucks is the first big chain to sell the country’s beans as a single-origin.

Uganda, which grows both Robusta and Arabica varieties of coffee, expected to export about six million bags of the commodity by 2020, nearly double what it expects to ship-out this year, Bloomberg reported.

In the first 10 month of its current coffee year that ends in September, the country exported 2.85 million bags that fetched it $349 million. The commodity is the top hard currency earner for Uganda.

With Starbucks planning to setup its first store in sub-Saharan Africa this year, there is hope that more of uganda’s coffee beans will be sold both within the continent and without