KAMPALA - Uganda’s cocoa production is set to rise by 6.1 per cent in October 2011-September 2012 crop year from the previous year, helped by favourable weather and maturing trees, the state-run Cocoa Development Project (CDP) said on Monday.
The east African country is a small producer compared with big growers such as Ivory Coast, but cocoa is one of Uganda’s commodity exports and a source of hard currency.
Last season Uganda earned $44 million from cocoa exports, up from $37 million in the 2009/2010 crop year.
Joseph Kimera, head of CDP, said in an interview that Uganda would produce an estimated 19,000 tonnes of cocoa in the 2011/2012 season, up from 17,900 tonnes in the previous crop year.
“Rains sometimes turned a little erratic, but on the whole they were above average in the cocoa heartlands of central and western Uganda, and these rains were well interspersed with episodes of dry weather,” Kimera said.
“We had an aggressive planting programme about five years ago and these trees have been maturing since the last crop year ... that’s also expected to boost output,” he said.
Kimera said farmers were also encouraged by stable farmgate prices. A kilogramme of dry cocoa beans has been selling for 4,500 shillings for nearly a year.
“There was a time when prices would experience wild swings, and that destroys the morale of farmers in harvesting, but for almost the past year farmers have been getting a stable price,” he said.
Cocoa cultivation was introduced in Uganda nearly 100 years ago, but its fortunes have fluctuated through the years as the government has concentrated on promoting coffee production, making the country Africa’s biggest exporter.
Cocoa output peaked in the 1960s, but a series of bottlenecks - government neglect, a lack of finance and price fluctuations - throttled the sector in the 1970s and 1980s.
In recent years, however, officials have been encouraging more farmers to start cocoa production as the government moves to cut dependence on coffee for Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings.
Uganda has an estimated 18,000 hectares of land under cocoa cultivation, and the crop supports about 10,000 households.