The Consular General of the Republic of Uganda in Guangzhou, Ambassador Judith Nsababera has tipped Ugandan coffee exporters, farmers, cooperatives and roasters on how to access the Chinese market.
This was during a discussion on the opportunities for export of Uganda coffee to China held at Serena Hotel, Kampala last week.
Ambassador Nsababera appealed to the coffee stakeholders to do due diligence on the Chinese companies they intend to deal with to avoid being disappointed.
She also emphasized the need for Ugandans to partner with local traders as this will assist in building trust between them and potential business partners.
“The competition for coffee in China is fierce. You need to have a local partner in China and you need to have your product readily available. The Chinese want to see, feel and touch the product you are selling [before they make any commitments],” Ambassador Nsababera said, pledging to support the coffee stakeholders who plan to do business in China.
UCDA Managing Director, Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, said there are 72 registered coffee exporters whose details and credentials have been captured and are able to export to China.
Dr. Iyamulemye said the Authority is engaging digital platforms in China to be able to upload Ugandan products. Government will pay the required subscriptions and he called on stakeholders to make use of such platforms.
To address the issue of quality and trust, Dr. Iyamulemye said UCDA and Ugandan coffee players can do cupping sessions in China, adding that the list of companies that have excelled in the annual Best of the Pearl competitions can be shared with Chinese coffee buyers for purposes of building trust and quality assurance.
He said the Best of the Pearl competitions have given Ugandan coffee great visibility around the world.
Responding to the issues raised about inadequate funding, Dr. Iyamulemye said the Authority had attempted to have a Coffee Fund but this was dropped because the government already has the Consolidated Fund. However, he appealed to sector players to brainstorm on innovative ways of identifying sources of funding.
Aggrey Tumuhaire, an exporter with experience in the Chinese market told the meeting that the major challenge in China for business persons is understanding the market, adding that it is important to have brand awareness for a distributor to accept your product.
According to Tumuhaire, the Chinese deal with people they trust and buy products they can physically see.
Nelson Tugume, the CEO of Inspire Africa, a coffee company exporting coffee to various markets, noted that while it is important to look at exports and the international markets, it is also important to add value for better prices for the farmer.
Tugume suggested the hydrogen technology which he says once it is in place and the coffee roasted, the product can take up to 12 months on the shelves without losing its quality.
He highlighted the need to grow domestic coffee consumption and called for affordable financing. The other challenges raised during the discussion was the issue of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
While giving a vote of thanks to the Ambassador, the Executive Director of the Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC), Josephine Mukumbya, said the sector needs a holistic approach to the challenges it is facing. For example, she said, financing alone may not address all the issues around the value chain.
Coffee exports to China have been increasing over the years. For instance, in 2018, Uganda exported 33,000 bags of coffee to China, 66,000 bags in 2019 and 83,000 bags in 2020.