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Case Study

Coffee boom - Plant Variety Protection in Uganda.

February 28, 2022
In 2020, Uganda’s coffee exports grew by 972,962 bags, a 22 percent increase from 2019. According to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the the country’s agency mandated to control and market the crop, this increase is the highest since 1991.
 
Figures released by the UCDA show that exports for the calendar year January 2020 to December 2020 amounted to 5.4 million 60-kilo bags. In December 2020 alone, exports amounted to 422,922 60-kilo bags worth US$37.78m, an increase of 28.06% & 9.42% in quantity and value respectively compared to the December 2019.

Coffee accounts for the bulk of export revenues in the country, contributing 15% of total goods exports. Uganda grows 2 types of coffee: Robusta and Arabica. It is the fourth largest Robusta producer in the world. A traditional cash crop, it is one of the foremost foreign exchange earners and the most important agricultural export.

But things weren't always so prosperous for this East African country. Between 1997 and 2007 coffee wilt disease severely affected Robusta coffee trees in many producing areas in the country, causing accumulated losses estimated at US$580 million. Today, the country has set itself an ambitious target to increase exports of the crop to 20 million bags by 2025. Last year, the twin factors of favourable weather and increased production from newly planted trees helped add to the increase in exports. Protection of new breed/plant varieties has also been a powerful incentive for continued research and innovation in recent years.

In 2014, Uganda passed the Plant Variety Protection Act ("the Act") with the aim of providing for the promotion of development of new plant varieties and their protection as a means of enhancing breeder's innovations and rewards through granting plant breeders rights. Plant Breeders Rights also called "Plant Variety Protection", is a form of intellectual property right granted to the breeder of a new plant variety. Plant breeders’ rights can be obtained if a plant variety is new, distinct, uniform, stable and designated by a suitable denomination.
 
Once a plant breeder's rights are registered according to the law, the rights become personal property and grant the owner the following:
  1. a) The exclusive right to sell, including the right to license other persons to sell and export plant varieties and reproductive material of plants of that variety;
  2. b) The exclusive right to produce, including the right to license other persons to produce, reproductive material of plants of that variety for sale.
For details on filing and application procedures for plant variety protection refer to THE PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION ACT, 2014.

Agricultural research in Uganda is undertaken by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) which is mandated to develop and release all new technologies, including coffee planting material. Under NARO, a National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI) is responsible for biological research while socio-economic and policy research is conducted by the UCDA and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) respectively.

The Uganda Government has put in place an ambitious Coffee program, the Vision 2030. With a target to produce 20 million bags of coffee by the year 2030, this represents a defining moment for the African coffee Industry. Thanks to efforts by the UCDA, since the early 90s and extensive scientific research efforts to breed new, disease-resistant varieties, the coffee industry in Uganda is on an uptrend.
 
If you’re interested in protecting your business in Uganda and want to know more, you can start today by referring our AfricaIP Guide™. Alternatively, you can contact us for expert advice on protecting your business anywhere in Africa . At AllThingsIP Africa we connect foreign businesses with resident IP attorneys and agents in every African jurisdiction, with all-inclusive competitive fees.
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