Uganda's coffee exports fall at quickest pace in 18 months


Uganda’s coffee exports sank in April at their fastest pace in 18 months, hampered by heavy rains which left only motorcycle taxis able to reach plantations, but also backing ideas of a drop in output.

Uganda exported 333,346 bags of coffee last month, compared with 409,916 bags in March last year, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority said.

The 18.5% decline was the steepest in the country, Africa’s top coffee exporter, since September 2016.

And it reflected particularly wet weather last month, which typically sees the start of one of Uganda’s two rainy seasons, and which disrupted deliveries of beans to merchants.

‘Not motorable’

"Most of the roads were not motorable and transport was very difficult and expensive," the Uganda Coffee Development Authority said.

"The only means of transport was the motorcycles and they could move in very restricted places."

The March export performance brings Uganda’s total coffee shipments for 2017-18, starting in October, to 2.34m bags, a rise of 3.8% year on year.

As of February, exports had been growing at a pace of 8.7%, building on expansion of 39%, to 4.61m bags, over 2016-17.

Smaller harvest?

The development authority forecast some recovery in April shipments to 350,000 bags, which would also represent a rise of some 7.5% year on year.

However, there are some ideas in the market that there may be more than weather behind the drop in March shipments, meaning that shipments may not be able to resume their pace of growth.

Earlier this week, Marex Spectron cautioned that a relatively strong Ugandan values were a sign of an easing in output from a 2016-17 level it pegged at 4.5m bags.

“Differentials have recently firmed and we believe that this supports a lower crop number year on year,” the merchant said, estimating 2017-18 production at 4.2m bags.

“We believe that strong early shipments will now slow as they were due to front-loading and not [a] higher crop.”


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