Bringing the finest coffees to the world
Ugandan premium coffee exporters, Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd, have been bringing their home grown delicacies to coffee drinkers the world over. In fifteenth century Africa, coffee was used in religious ceremonies and revered for its energy inducing abilities. The robusta bean is indigenous to Uganda, and has been part of the local culture for centuries. The hardy nature of the robusta plants lends them to lower elevations and they do not require favourable soil and climate conditions. The robusta beans are used greatly in everyday and instant coffees as well as top espressos. Robusta beans and arabica beans are the two most commonly grown and popular beans. The arabica beans are more delicate than the robust Robusta, and are more sensitive to temperature and soil conditions, and are generally considered more flavourful than the robusta, but both are popular the world over.
Coffee continues to be a very important role in Uganda’s economy, with an estimated 1.3 million households involved in growing coffee. A Ugandan Government estimate is that farmers planted over 200,000 hectares of Robusta coffee (primarily in the south east of Uganda) and 33,000 hectares of the less durable Arabica beans.
Kyagalanyi are making a great contribution towards coffee remaining Uganda’s top export earner. The company, whose name means “warm” or “friendly”, was founded when the Uganda coffee industry was liberalised in the early 1990’s. “In fact, we were one of the first fully licensed private processors and exporters,” says David Barry, Managing Director of Kyagalanyi. “Kyagalanyi is one of the leading exporters of Ugandan coffee. We focus on the full range of Ugandan coffees, namely natural robustas, washed robustas, natural arabicas and washed arabica. We place special emphasis on quality. We procure from all of the coffee growing areas in Uganda,” continues Barry. “We process coffee in Kampala where we have our head quarters and substantial capacity. We also procure and process in Mbale in the heart of the washed arabica growing region. We export to a full range of destinations including EU, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, China, Sudan and others.”
In 2009, the company exported over 510,000 bags of coffee all over the world, primarily the European Union, Australia and Japan and to high-profile roasting companies. The country does face challenges in the industry caused by the quickly spreading coffee wilt disease which is responsible for destroying large quantities of coffee. Kyagalanyi were at the forefront of crop recovery in the country when wilt disease was more prevalent than coffee producers were comfortable with. Not in its nature to stand by and do naught, Kyagalanyi used the passion and ambition intrinsic to the company since its inception to help find solutions for the country’s precious commodity.
Kyagalanyi quickly implemented re-seeding and re-planting efforts that garnered the company a gold award in the coffee sector. Uganda has historically had to suffer through coffee wilt which results in low production volumes, the consequences of which are debilitating for the industry. Kyagalanyi’s efforts helped to reverse those trends, making changes not only for the company but also for the entire production chain.
The replanting programmes in Uganda have helped salvage the situation (which had effected Uganda since the 1990s), and export volumes are no longer in decline and the negative tread reversed. The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) said that production was up to 3.2 million bags of coffee last year, from 2.5 million bags in 2007, and that Uganda currently has around 230 million coffee trees.
Barry says the company is proud of “playing a role in improving the pricing structure and quality of coffee grown in the Mbale region.” That, as well as being the largest exporter in three of the past five years and being one of the largest foreign exchange earners in Uganda makes Kyagalanyi a very impressive organization; one that is continuing to thrive in the commodities market. “We are sure to embrace better practices in all that we do. We are ISO certified and preparing for Health and Safety certification. We were the first 4C [Common Code for the Coffee Community] verified exporter in Africa and we are, additionally, UTZ certified,” says Barry.
The international profile of the company is very high and is backed by becoming the first ISO 9001: 2000 certified coffee exporter in the country, something of which coffee drinkers and citizens alike can be proud. To augment its operation and reinvest in its operations, a year ago the company installed a primary processing mill at Nakanyonyi in Mukono where it runs the Mother Garden and seedlings project. The modern equipment further increases productivity of the company and ensures efficient and economic processing of the dry cherries procured in the area. “In the past couple of years we have also invested in new colour sorting machinery, air cleaning equipment for our main processing plant, and high grade micro eco-washing stations for washed arabicas in Mbale area,” beams Barry.
In no small part has Kyagalanyi helped to make Uganda an attractive place to do business. The coffee industry, and caffeine enthusiasts, benefit greatly from the products that Kyagalanyi has produced. The country of Uganda is well positioned in part due to the consideration paid to improving the opportunities of its countrymen and woman, and business infrastructure. Kyagalanyi puts a great emphasis on sustainable practices by providing markets to farmers which are fair and respectful.
“We recognise that good agricultural practices are vital to improve the yield and quality for coffee growers in Uganda,” says Barry. “Better quality equals better prices and better volumes. We are involved with several farmer groups in various parts of the country, in addition to our coffee mother garden and seedlings distribution operation where we link up with the local farmers to augment production and better practices. We aim to maintain our position as a leading exporter and to continue to develop our approach at the production level assisting in the improved yields and qualities which can be achieved by the small holder farmers.”
Barry is proud to see the end results of the company’s team mentality. “We see the best support we can give to small holder producers is training and inputs—helping farmers to help themselves and improve their living standards.” Success certainly breeds success when it comes to Kyagalanyi, a company which truly lives up to its name.