Five new varieties of Arabica coffee are in their final evaluation stage at Bugusege Satellite in Sironko district, URN has learnt.
Dr. Geoffrey Arinaitwe, the Director of the National Agriculture Coffee Research Institute- NaCORI, says that they have been researching 20 varieties of Arabic coffee but five of the varieties are getting ready for release in a year’s time.
He notes that the new varieties yield much and are resistant to diseases and pests compared to the SL14 variety, which is grown currently.
The other Arabica coffee varieties include SL 28 (high altitude), KP 423 (medium) and the traditional Nyasaland that is grown in the Mountain Elgon region, the Rwenzori Region and in the mountains of Zeu in Zombo District.
Uganda has not released any new Arabica Coffee variety since 1970. Arinaitwe attributes this to the long time it takes to breed new varieties, noting that it has taken NaCORI 30 years of research to come up with the new varieties.
He explains that the country has a target of exporting 20 million bags of coffee by 2025 away from the current export of six million bags, which he says will be possible with the new varieties.
Dr. Patrick Charles Okori, the Sironko District Production Officer, says that the biggest challenge facing the old Arabica coffee varieties is their susceptibility to pests and diseases and the poor soil fertility, which has affected production.
According to Okori, currently, the average production of coffee per tree is two kilograms per year. He, however, notes that with the improved varieties, a tree will be able to produce between 3 and 5 kilograms.
David Livingstone Giruli, the LC V Chairperson of Sironko District, says that the biggest challenge farmers face with the current varieties is persistent attacks by pests and diseases which are very expensive to manage.
Toshi Victor Bwana, a member of the Umoja Conservation Trust, says that as NaCORI prepares to release new varieties of Arabica coffee, there is need to prepare the ground to maintain the natural high altitude conditions where Arabica coffee thrives.
However, the Bugisu Cooperative Union Chairperson, Nathan Nandala Mafabi is sceptical about the new varieties, saying that the original varieties are the best.