The prolonged drought that has struck Mt. Elgon zone and the neighboring districts of eastern Uganda is taking a toll on Arabica coffee plantations in the region.
The drought, according to coffee farmers, has shed off coffee buds, struck down flowers and withered coffee plants in the plantations.
The farmers said the old plants and the new plants they planted as prices of coffee parchment gained both on the local and international market last year, are drying up.
Coffee starts flowering in March and is harvested during the main season that stretches from September to February.
Anna Grace Namono, a coffee farmer in Bubyangu Sub County in Mbale district, eastern Uganda, told Xinhua in an interview last week that despite efforts by farmers to mulch the coffee so as to retain some moisture in the soils, the drought is more persistent this year.
“I own three acres of Arabica coffee but all the buds that sprouted at the start of the month have either shed off or dried up on branches because of the drought. Even the fry crop remnants of red cherries from the main harvest season have been attacked by pests and diseases escalated by the drought,” she said.
Joseph Werikhe, the UCDA eastern regional coordinator confirmed that the drought had increased the existence of the antestia bugs that attacks the coffee flowers causing flower abortion, a condition where flowers fail to progress to fruition.
Coffee is one of Uganda’s main foreign exchange earners. UCDA statistics indicate that on a year-to-year basis, exports for the period (March 2011 – February 2012) totaled 3.2 million bags worth 478.8 million U.S. dollars comprising 2.48 million bags of Robusta and 0.72 million bags of Arabica.