Characteristics and importances of Robusta Coffee You Should Know About
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Robusta Coffee (Coffea canephora) is grown in the low altitude areas of Uganda, ranging from about 900 metres to 1,200 metres above sea level. It has a shallow root system and grows as a robust tree or shrub to about 10 m tall. It flowers irregularly, taking about 10–11 months for cherries to ripen depending on rainfall distribution, producing oval-shaped beans. Robusta Coffee has a greater crop yield per tree than that of Arabica, contains more caffeine (2.7% compared to Arabica’s 1.5% and contains less sugar (3–7% compared to Arabica’s 6–9%).
It is less susceptible to pests and disease, thus, needs less fungicides and pesticides than Arabica. Commercial production of Robusta Coffee began in the early 1920’s and an extensive production program was undertaken in the 1950s. By 1960, coffee production had risen to about 2 million 60Kg bags and reached its first peak of 3.7 million in the 1972/73 coffee year and 4.2 million bags in 1996/97.
However, due market imperfections, old age of coffee trees and poor agronomic practices, production had again declined to as low as 2.1 million bags by 1991. After coffee liberalization in 1991, production has been improving despite the Coffee Wilt Disease (CWD) that has destroyed about 56% of Robusta trees since its detection in 1993, causing a big constraint to Robusta Coffee production.
However, through research and extension, coffee wilt disease resistant and high yielding varieties are currently available and being distributed to farmers thereby boosting production. Currently, out of 104 districts growing coffee, 60 growing only Robusta Coffee while 13 grow only Arabica. 38 districts grows both Robusta and Arabica Coffee. Robusta Coffee production stands at about 3.3 million bags.
Benefits of growing Robusta Coffee include:
• Provides an assured income.
• Uganda’s high altitude Robusta is of a better cupping quality and fetches a higher price (premium).
• Can be well integrated with other crops on the farm hence increasing returns per unit area to the farmer.
• It is a beverage with well-documented health benefits.
• Source of employment.
• It is perennial, remaining productive for up to 40-50 years without replanting.
Robusta Coffee growing zones in Uganda
Robusta is the major type of coffee grown in Uganda, accounting for about 80% of production. It grows in most low altitude areas of Uganda, covering Central, Eastern, Mid North, West Nile, Western and South Western Uganda that are within 900 - 1,500m above sea level. Robusta has Lake Victoria Crescent as its native habitat. Wild Robusta still grows in natural forests around the Lake Victoria Basin and in the Kibaale and Zooka-Adjumani forest reserves where it is estimated that between 150-400 hectares are still under wild Robusta Coffee.