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By Mulengera Reporter    

In existence since 1962, the International Coffee Organization (ICO) has always existed as a UN-affiliated global forum bringing together countries involved in production, exportation, importation and consumption of coffee products.

Closely affiliated to powerful global actors like World Bank, IMF, UN/FAO, UNCTAD, UNIDO, Common Fund for Commodities, African Fine Coffees Association, IFAD, AfDB, Afrexim Bank, Central American Bank for Economic Integration, National Coffee Association of USA, Specialty Coffee Association, Global Environmental Facility, Inter Africa Coffee Organization (IACO), PROMECAFE, European Coffee Federation and others, ICO has always existed as the forum through which global players from private sector and global government leaders interact regarding the enactment and enforcement of global policy aimed at strengthening the coffee sector.      

Priority has always been on prioritizing UN objectives of an inclusive, prosperous and peaceful globe. It’s a forum through which the world’s countries involved in production and exportation of coffee are brought together with powerful importers and consumers of coffee in the developed global North. Much of Europe/EU is a member just like USA, UK and other parts of North America. In fact, ICO is headquartered in London along Garry’s Inn Road. It has the International Coffee Council (ICC) which meets twice a year to set the agenda for the coffee economy globally. China and North Korea recently applied to join and their membership is on the verge of being concluded.

So powerful is ICO that 97% of all coffee producing/exporting countries subscribe to its membership implying there is no coffee-related decision globally that can be taken and enforced globally without being spearheaded or even originated through their London-based Secretariat. Yet that isn’t all. Over 60% of coffee importing countries are members too and UK is very prominent under this category. Under ICO, members agree on the regulation of the coffee trade globally and the same is enforced under the provisions of the International Coffee Agreement which is renegotiated and agreed upon afresh every after 10 years.

Membership also means automatic linkages to funding opportunities as some of the most generous and wealthiest countries of the globe are members including Switzerland and Germany whose citizens don’t only enjoy consuming coffee but are also keen to contribute towards expanded production and exportation capabilities of the same. Through the Council (ICC), global governments that happen to be ICO members conduct intergovernmental consultations resulting into increased transparency, corporate governance and accountability into the global level policy decisions that impact all coffee economy or trade stakeholders.


The big irony is that inspite of all these glaring benefits that come with membership, the GoU had already written to the London-based Secretariat to announce their desire to exit and cease to be part of the membership of the International Coffee Organization (ICO). The one page very shocking communication signaling the Ugandan exit, dated Friday 10th September 2021, bears the signature of Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibira who serves as the all-powerful MD for Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

Addressed to ICO Executive Director Jose Sette, the communication doesn’t disclose reasons why Uganda won’t be able to afford continued membership to such a very important organization. “[Uganda] would like to notify the Depository that the government of the Republic of Uganda will not join the extension of the ICA 2007 beyond 1st February 2022. We hereby request the ICO Secretariat to circulate this communication to all members of the organization,” Iyamulemye’s notification of membership withdraw reads in part.

Five days later (on 15th September 2021), the ISO Executive Director proceeded to widely circulate the notification of Uganda’s desire to exit membership to all ICO member countries to enable those wishing to object to do so.

Innocent, as it may seem, Iyamulemye’s communication to the global coffee organization Secretariat in London has already complicated things in more ways than he might have anticipated. In Entebbe, his supervisors based at the MAAIF Ministry are up in arms wondering why he never carried out the necessary consultations before taking such a fatal move.

One source says that because Gen Museveni greatly values global multilateralism, Iyamulemye could lose his job because there is no way Cabinet is going to acquiesce to a decision that is obviously so counterproductive. Gen Museveni will most likely be out looking for somebody to hang and Mr. Iyamulemye could pay the ultimate price.

“The Minister of Agriculture wasn’t consulted. The UCDA top management, led by the MD, acted unilaterally and this is something Parliament, donors and other stakeholders aren’t going to accept,” says a source adding that absence of a substantive governing board at UCDA to veto many of the CEO’s decisions has only made worse an already bad situation. Farmer associations and private sector leaders in the Ugandan coffee arena are equally appalled by this decision as communicated by the UCDA MD whose belligerent approach some are now blaming for such anomalous decision making at the Jinja Road-based agency. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at






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