The second edition of the Spotlight UG was a thriller as government agencies in the agricultural sector outlined their achievements, challenges and plans.
The show held at Next Media Park saw three agencies: National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) engage in an incisive discussion about the agricultural sector.
It was held under the theme: Agriculture as a backbone of Uganda’s economy.
Uganda’s agricultural sector has seen tremendous changes in a number of ways ranging from budgetary allocation, investment, and structure.
What hasn’t changed however is its small contribution to the country’s economy.
The statistics from the Uganda Bureau off Statistics (UBOS) indicate that it employs six out of ten Ugandans.
The implications of this statistic are three;
1.Low agricultural productivity
2.High Household poverty
3.Low competitiveness of the agricultural sector the technocrats view agriculture as Uganda’s sleeping giant because of the its high potential to create meaningful employment to the 68% of the population a factor that could increase household incomes and promote re investment in the sector to boost production.
The agricultural budget as been increased over time to leverage the forward and backward linkages created by the agricultural sector.
Dr. Ambrose Agona, the director general, NARO, noted that countries that develop at a very fast speed invest 1% of their countries GDP in research which Uganda hasn’t been able to achieve.
Agona highlighted the achievements of NARO including release of over 21 varieties of cassava, working with over 1000 farmers right from the stage of problem identification up to when investigations and test trials done, and the resistant coffee varieties developed by NARO.
The future plans for NARO, he said, are in food safety, vaccines for the foot and mouth disease, production of bio pesticides and bio fertilisers.
Dr. Iyamulemye Emmanuel, the managing director, UCDA, used this chance to tell the country that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil.
“The fact that we produce coffee as a major cash crop from Uganda, we need to start processing it and selling it as a finished product. We don’t want to be seen as exporters of green coffee beans. We want to be the number one coffee producer in the world,” Iyamulemye said.
He said there is still space to do more and the youth should engage in coffee production since its profitable enough to uplift their standards.
The future is bright for the coffee sector as maintaining the current market share as well as creating new ones and maximise production as well as the gains from the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, he said.
He said the new coffee strategy aligned to the coffee road map strategy is soon being rolled out to stream line the coffee supply chain in the country.
Dr. Samuel. K. Mugasi, the executive director, NAADS, explained the journey of NAADs and the commendable steps taken in the provision of agricultural extension services to Ugandan farmers.
Agro- processing was highlighted as a solution to farmers with bumper harvests of pine apples without market in Kayunga were promised a fruit processing factory.
The plans for the next financial year are to set up small scale mango processing plants in Jinja, Greater Masaka, Northern Uganda and Nwoya district with the partnership with the private sector player.
Mugasi said NAADS is undertaking studies to establish which other crops can be prioritised apart from Macadamia, cashew and Avocado.
He shared that agriculture should not be seen as a last resort and thus the need to be careful while telling people to go into agriculture emphasising the need to provide knowledge and data to back up farming decisions.
“Enterprise zoning has been carried out and this country has been zoned and we know which crop can be grown in a particular area and which livestock can thrive there,” he said.
Denis Nyiro, a farmer thanked government for the efforts put in agriculture but recommended change in the education system .