Theft Hits Uganda’s Coffee Sector

Coffee Crushing

Over the last few months, we have unfortunately covered a number of stories concerning the theft of coffee from farmers, exporters and production facilities.

With coffee a potentially lucrative crop, we should not be surprised that supplies and warehouses are common targets as it represents an easy source of income for those successful thieves.

We have even seen instances where businesses are using the cover of a robbery to fiddle their books.

In Uganda, the Uganda Coffee Federation (UCF) has seen reported thefts rise at an alarming rate. The result – as you can imagine – ha not been positive for either country or industry.

“This has led to a loss of revenue,” a spokesperson explained.

Okay, so it might not take a rocket scientist to arrive at that conclusion, but these thefts impact people at all levels of the coffee sector: The farmers lose income, the exporters lose income and the government loses income.

It is a lose-lose-lose situation.

Speaking to The Daily Monitor, the UCF’s Betty Namwagala said that for the year 2014-15, a total of 91,000kg of coffee with a market value of nearly $200,000 vanished.

“In our case, the thefts go back to 2008-09. Whenever there is an increase in the coffee price on the international market, the thefts escalate.

“Coffee is [typically] stolen while in transit by organised rackets who collude with truck drivers.”

Kailash Natani, the managing director of Ugacof, one of the country’s biggest exporters, warned of grave consequences should the practice continue.

“Buyers of Ugandan coffee may stop purchasing our coffee if the respective governments don’t fight this crime,” he said.

The UCF is of the belief that the majority of coffee is stolen outside their borders, specifically on a stretch of road between the Kenyan cities of Eldoret and Nakuru.

As such, they have called upon the Kenyan authorities to be more proactive in marshalling transport routes in that region.

If no action is taken, the results could be devastating for the Ugandan coffee industry, as Namwagala notes: “As a coffee exporting country, when our cargo goes missing…we lose our reputation. The exporters have to compensate for the stolen coffee and if you can’t pay back, you may lose both the buyer and the market.”

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