Coffee farmers and traders under their Association the Uganda Quality Coffee Traders and Processors Association (UQCTPA) want registration and licensing of coffee farmers to be made voluntary rather than the mandatory registration that is provided by the National Coffee Bill, 2018.
The farmers and traders led by the Association Chairman, Amos Kasigi made the proposal Thursday while appearing before the Parliament Committee on Agriculture that is currently handling the bill.
The object of this Bill is to reform the law to provide for the Uganda Coffee Development Authority to regulate, promote and oversee the coffee sub-sector; and to regulate all on-farm and off-farm activities in the coffee value chain.
Kasigi told the committee members that ever since farmers learnt of the bill, they have raised numerous concerns which may be a threat to the coffee business as their source of livelihood.
He said the call for registration and licensing of coffee farmers send a negative signal that government intends to levy direct tax on their incomes.
He called on government to come out and inform farmers about the intentions of this registration and should clearly spell out that it is not aimed at taxation.
Government should also separate the registration and licensing sections in the bill so that farmers can clearly know that registration is different from licensing, he proposed.
“We ask that a line be put in the bill to say that the tax is not intended for tax purposes and the licensing be written separately as a heading so that people that must be licensed should be listed up and we are already advising our people to pay the licences but the registration should be made voluntarily,” Kasigi said.
On the other hand, Kasigi has welcomed the issue of penalising farmers who neglect their gardens in the bill as they will bring order and compliance which will subsequently improve quality of coffee.
He however noted that penalties suggested in the bill are too harsh and should be revised.
The contentious Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, Cap. 325, which was enacted in 1991 and only covered off-farm activities of marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and poor harvesting handling outside the scope of the law.
In addition, since the enactment of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act’ Cap’ 325 twenty years ago, new developments advances and challenges in coffee research, extension’ farmer organisations and climate change have emerged that need to be addressed by the law.