Introduction of Electronic Clearances Bears Fruit as Coffee Revenues hit USD 530 Million.

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INTRODUCTION OF ELECTRONIC CLEARANCES BEARS FRUIT AS COFFEE REVENUES HIT USD 530Mn.

Our Reporter.

Annual coffee exports registered a 31.89 per cent and 59.16 per cent increase in quantity and cash value respectively, the latest Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) report has revealed.

The UCDA monthly report for August 2017 indicates that “Coffee Exports for 12 months –  September 2016 to August 2017 totalled to 4.47 million bags valued at USD 530 million (about UGX 1.908 trillion) compared to the 3.39 million bags worth USD 333 million (about UGX 1.199 trillion) exported in the corresponding period the previous year.”

The growth was supported by a strong performance of Robusta coffee, whose exports increased by 56.21 per cent. Arabica coffee exports on the other hand declined by 22.43 per cent.

This recent boom came at the back of deliberate government investments into the plantation of more coffee seeds coupled with among others Trade Facilitation initiatives such as the 2016 roll-out of the Uganda Electronic Single Window (UESW), a paperless platform that leverages technology to facilitate private sector trade. The system allows for electronic submission of information, documentations and processing of import, export & transit related trade documents and requests.

In an email exchange recently, Laura Walusimbi, the UCDA corporate communications manager noted that the increase in coffee export is as a result of government’s intervention slightly over three years ago to plant more coffee seedlings and facilitation of coffee trade.

“The 57.4 million coffee seedlings planted in 2013/14 are now starting to yield. This was almost triple the 19.6 million seedlings that were planted in 2012/13,” she noted.

Further still, the recent introduction of the UESW has fostered compliance and facilitated the sector.

Coffee is the most important Cash Crop in Uganda.

The latest UESW Performance Report, released in the first week of October 2017, during the Project Implementation Team (PIT) meeting convened by the Ministry of Trade at Imperial Golf View Hotel, Entebbe showed that by end of August 2017, the electronic single window portal had already processed and cleared more than 12,000 Coffee Export Permits through the system.

Addressing other partners at the PIT meeting, Mutebi Tobias William, the UESW Acting Project Manager stated that since the deployment and integration of the electronic single window with UCDA systems, a lot of progress has been made, highlighted by thousands of coffee export permits issued.

“Coffee Export permits after being approved by UCDA are being exchanged electronically with other regulatory agencies such as URA through the UESW. Coffee exporters now use the system for application for the of certificates which are being issued electronically by UCDA through the single window. In practice when an exporter is issued with the certificate, the system automatically submits a copy to the UESW system and the Customs system for export declaration processing of the declaration without necessarily waiting for submission of the same by the exporter. Note that when a declaration is made, the certificate is written off automatically by the UESW,” Mr Mutebi noted, adding;

“13,279 certificates have so far been received by URA successfully through the Single Window. 12,121 certificates have been cleared through customs and written off by export declaration.”

This development was further supported by Doreen Rose Rweihangwe, the UCDA Quality Assurance Manager who during this same PIT meeting noted that although the electronic single window portal is new, document processing has been made faster and captures more trade data at record speeds. She further encouraged other institutions who are not yet in the system to get integrated into the system, plus calling upon the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to expedite rollout of the electronic single window to other regulatory institutions

“With the manual system, a trader usually spends about four days chasing after clearances from different offices including UCDA, clearing agent and customs unit. However, with the electronic single window, this process is now completed within one day.”

Damali Ssali, the Senior Programme Manager at TradeMark East Africa noted that the Uganda Electronic Single Window, funded by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through TradeMark East Africa, is coordinated by Ministry of Trade and implemented by Uganda Revenue Authority. It brings together more than 20 government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) involved directly and indirectly in International Trade including those involved in the import and export document process of goods and services.

“The electronic single window has already started to benefit Ugandan coffee exporters through the reduction in transaction costs and time. We expect the same benefits to accrue to everyone in the trading community as we get more agencies integrated onto the electronic single window system,” Damali Ssali said.

So far, URA, UNBS, NDA, UCDA, UEPB, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Energy are already using this online portal while development of related interfaces for rollout to others continue to be undertaken by the PIT in coordination by MTIC

The system guarantees faster clearance of cargo, less transaction costs, no paperwork, limited physical interactions thus reduced bribery and convenient E-tracking of goods.

This was emphasised by the theme of the PIT meeting “BIG BUSINESS ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES”. With this theme, Francis Kolou, the UESW Coordinator in the trade ministry assured the meeting of government support to trade facilitation initiatives and commitment to roll out the electronic single window to other institutions. He further called upon the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities that the platform provides.

“The Ministry is confident that the electronic single window system is fundamental in implementation of other related projects jointly implemented by TradeMark East Africa and the Government of Uganda such as the One Stop Border Posts at Busia, Mutukula, Mirama Hills, the Electronic Cargo Tracking System, the Authorised Economic Operators Initiative, and the Non-Tariff Barriers Reporting System among others.”