Uganda’s High Commissoner to the United Kingdom John Leonard Mugerwa said Uganda’s withdrawal from the International Coffee Organization (ICO) was because the international agreement is one-sided and unfavorable to coffee exporting countries like Uganda.
Amb. Mugerwa was speaking during an interaction with the members of parliament on the Foreign Affairs committee while responding to the questions raised by Kyadondo East member of parliament Muwada Nkunyingi over Uganda’s withdrawal from ICO.
On Feb 2, Uganda officially withdrawn from the International Coffee Agreement, after officials from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) signaled their intention to leave late last year.
Muwada queried the decision saying Uganda cannot just go out of ICO because it is one of the leading coffee exporting countries in the world.
Amb. Mugerwa says that the withdrawal was due to the current negotiated international coffee agreement is unfavorable and its not taking on board the interests of major coffee producing countries like Uganda and not about subscription fees as some people imply. He said Uganda has been paying it’s obligation of 40,000 Pounds per year and therefore the claims of failure to pay subscription fees do not apply.
He also stated that ICO levies high taxes on Uganda’s green coffee beans and the importing countries fetch a lot of profits more than the exporting countries like Uganda.
Amb. Mugwerwa said the international coffee agreement is currently under review and Uganda will remain out of ICO until the demands of favorable consideration of the exporters interests are met.
Overseen by the International Coffee Organization, the International Coffee Agreement has been signed by nearly all the world’s largest coffee-producing countries and many of the world’s largest coffee-consuming countries. The agreement has existed in numerous iterations since 1962, and it was used to regulate global coffee supplies and stabilize global coffee prices through a quota system from the early 1960s until its collapse in 1989.
The United States, the world’s largest coffee-buying country and a critical funding member of the ICO, withdrew from the ICO/ICA in 2018 following an order signed by then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during the Trump administration.
In 2020, Guatemala became the only major coffee-producing country to leave the ICO/ICA, with sector leaders citing lack of protection from the ongoing price crisis as a factor.
Last year, Uganda produced an estimated 5.95 million 60-kilo bags of coffee, including some 5 million bags of Robusta and 950,000 bags of arabica. In doing so, the African nation became the world’s fourth-largest global Robusta producer and seventh-largest coffee producer overall.