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UGANDA

Coffee giant in hot water over African grounds

A German coffee producer has come under attack for allegedly taking advantage of a brutal land-grab in Uganda that made way for a "sustainable" plantation.

Coffee giant in hot water over African grounds
Photo: DPA

Hamburg-based Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) has 10 percent of the global coffee market share, and supplies Dallmayr among other firms.

NKG head Michael Neumann personally laid the foundation stone for the Kaweri plantation alongside Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni back in 2001.

But it was reported on Monday that just a few days before the ceremony, government troops drove around 400 Ugandan farmers off the 2,500 hectare piece of land, beating workers and destroying their huts and crops.

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper said the farmers and their families, around 2,000 people in all, have been fighting for compensation ever since, and have won the support of human rights organization Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN).

Together the organizations have brought several lawsuits against both the Ugandan government and NKG’s subsidiary company Kaweri, but it has been protracted process.

Judges have been changed several times, and NKG itself has missed several negotiation deadlines.

The farmers did not directly own the land, but Ugandan common law gives them legal rights to its use, because they had been working it for so long before they were evicted, the paper said.

But Neumann told the Frankfurter Rundschau that the land was “the legal property of the Ugandan Investment Authority (UAI), and has been leased to Kaweri for 99 years.”

The farmers also argue that the Kaweri plantation has annexed some 500 hectares of neighbouring land, owned by 80-year-old farmer Anna Nandyose Katende. The Frankfurter Rundschau said it had seen her title deeds for this land, which is to be re-measured this week to prove the land was illegally taken by the German-owned company.

Dallmayr has consistently claimed that it only buys coffee from sustainable sources, and NKG argues that the Kaweri plantation has brought new jobs, educational opportunities, electricity and fresh water to the area.

But FIAN spokeswoman Gertrud Falk says that while the new electricity and water supply had raised the standard of living for some of the local population, many farmers simply no longer have any income to afford the new facilities. As a consequence the number of children going to school has reportedly dropped.

“We won’t let go,” Falk told the paper. “The expulsion is unjustifiable and is a blatant violation of human rights and Ugandan law.”

The Local/bk

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ASPARAGUS

Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus

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