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Specialty Coffee Expo 2022, Boston – USA: Mountain Harvest MD, Kenneth Barigye, tips coffee exporters

By An Executive Editor

In early April 2022, a Ugandan delegation headed by Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) Managing Director Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye was part of the Specialty Coffee Expo 2022 in Boston, United States of America.

With him were exporters – CECOFE, Zigoti and Mountain Harvest.

Mountain Harvest Managing Director, Kenneth Barigye (Left) at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston, USA in early April 2022.

The Specialty Coffee Expo is America’s largest specialty coffee trade show and brings together over 400 coffee companies, coffee buyers and sellers from across the globe.

“Participating in the EXPO opens up new marketing opportunities for Uganda’s coffee & strengthens Uganda Coffee brand,” UCDA tweeted during that time.

Participants at the Expo.

At the weekend, we asked Kenneth Barigye (Pictured – 2nd left), the Managing Director –

Mountain Harvest, about his experience at the Expo, lessons and take home, and he had these to say:

Kampala Gazette: What is there to learn from such Expos?

Kenneth Barigye: As a company, Mountain Harvest has supported farmers in Uganda to produce the high-quality specialty coffee customers’ love. What is still missing is marketing and branding of Uganda as an origin of high specialty coffee. Expos such as the SCA Expo present companies like us an opportunity to support Uganda Coffee Development Authority’s marketing and branding initiatives by engaging the buyers and other coffee professionals who attend expos.

UCDA official showcasing Uganda’s coffee at the Expo.

We see these Expos as marketing and networking opportunities. It’s through such networks that purchase deals are initiated. They are also full of learning opportunities in the many workshops and seminars.

Kampala Gazette: What would you describe as your experience while at the expo?

Kenneth Barigye: The SCA expo is particularly interesting on the learning front through its Re:Co symposium that is normally organized 2 days before the expo. I attended this year’s symposium which revisited our basic assumptions about specialty coffee and its consumers through the lens of increasing fragmentation and the accompanying opportunities it brings to redress market dynamics. I think I left with a better understanding of what specialty coffee attributes are becoming more important and which new markets are consuming more specialty coffee.

My interactions with top quality producers from Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua and many other origins including the neighboring Ethiopia increased my industry knowledge and network.

Given the unusually small size of this year’s Expo as people get used to travelling again after the COVID-19 restrictions, interactions were more deep and engaging. I even had an opportunity to share with Ugandan producers who attended – some of them I had never heard of them while some are industry legends. Such exchanges help producers with the same mission to share lessons and even produce better quality.

Lastly I made connections to a number of buyers and these coming weeks will see many samples leaving Uganda to the US to start new relationships that I have no doubt will lead into new contracts.

Kampala Gazette: What should Uganda do better, learning from the Expo?

Kenneth Barigye: I think there is a huge unrealized potential when it comes to marketing Uganda as an origin of specialty coffee.  UCDA can set up booths and support more marketing initiatives but it’s upon us the Ugandan producers to go to these expos with great coffees. It is us the producers and exporters who can commercialize UCDA’s marketing initiatives by signing contracts.

UCDA worked with the US Embassy in Kampala in the 2019 expo which created space and attention for cupping Ugandan coffees. We signed contracts during that expo more than we have ever seen. I would like to call upon the US Embassy in Kampala and UCDA to revisit this approach as it has tangible returns for Uganda’s coffee.

I also call upon our parliament to give coffee the priority it deserves through budget provisions that support and encourage partnerships between UCDA and exporters to attend such events. Such participation will elevate the potential of Uganda within the specialty world’s eye.

I hope UCDA will provide more support to small and medium sized producers/exporters to attend future events. This will help exporters to get higher FOB prices which are a pre-requisite to paying farmers stable, above-market prices for their coffee.

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