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Early rain stirs hopes of better Uganda coffee yields   

MBALE, Uganda (Xinhua) -- The early return of rain has stirred optimism of better Arabica coffee yields among farmers in Uganda’s Mt. Elgon sub region this year.

Unlike last year when rain returned late in March, this year’s rain returned earlier than forecasted by the national metrological department.

The metrological department recently forecast that near normal to normal rains would return to the Mt. Elgon area in eastern Uganda from early to mid-March.

By late February, however, rain had already returned in the area, especially the Arabica coffee growing districts of Bududa, upper Bulambuli, Manafwa, Kapchorwa and the upper coffee growing areas in Mbale district.

Martin Nangoli, a commercial coffee farmer and exporter, who owns 3,500 trees in Masira sub-county, Bulambuli district, said that farmers are already tending to the coffee plantations to nurture the trees through the flowering stage.

“During the dry spell from last November to early February this year, we were pruning, mulching and weeding. The coffee trees are flowering now. With the return of rains, we are now applying organic manure around the tree plants. This time round, unlike last year, the rains have returned at the right time during flowering. This provides hope for better yields and weighty quality coffee beans,” Nangoli explained.

The major Arabica coffee harvest season stretches from May to August. Coffee is Uganda’s lead export crop.

David Isanga, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) regional extension officer, said that the early return of rains had resuscitated coffee plants that were withering.

“There were some farmers who planted new coffee seedlings during the second season in the current national campaign to increase coffee production. But the December sunshine dried up about 40 percent of these new seedlings, according to the survey we did. The return of the rains is a breather to these new plants and a blessing to farmers with already yielding plants,” Isanga stressed.

Musira, a commercial coffee farmer with 6,000 coffee trees, said the drought had withered the coffee plants and affected the flowering stage.

“The trees strained to bear flowers amidst the drought. As such, most of the flowers shed off from the branches. Trees have started to flower again with the current torrential rains. But the fact that the first flowers shed off is going to have some impact on the seasonal yields,” Musira said.



Uganda to tighten regulation of imported mobile phones

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has instructed all telecom operators in the country to create an Equipment Identification Register (EIR) for all imported communication gadgets.

In an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday, UCC executive director Godfrey Mutabazi said the order takes immediate effect, as the regulator embarks on monitoring and regulation of all mobile devices imported for use.

UCC officials said the EIR will help track and eliminate importation of all counterfeit communication gadgets.

The commission further said all gadgets such as phones, tabs, iPads and headsets shall be first approved by the regulator prior to importation, to eliminate all risk of importing counterfeits.

Mutabazi said the commission has embarked on checking and clearing all imported mobile devices for correspondence to the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI), to eliminate counterfeits.

UCC Communications Director Fred Otunnu said after an early morning meeting with operators and phone dealers at UCC on Tuesday, they agreed to dispose of all counterfeits with immediate effect.

“The regulations bar any telecom company or phone dealer from being associated with any none type approval equipment, so they must disconnect and dispose of them immediately,” he said.

He said the discussion for regulation of all imported mobile devices began about two years ago, and operators agreed to partly sponsor the purchase of the relevant testing equipment which is now housed at the UCC house.

“Importers need to be more vigilant when buying their merchandise from abroad because going forward, Uganda will not accept any counterfeit communication equipment to enter its boundaries,” he said.

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