By David Serumaga
Uganda has the unequaled potential to be the food basket of the East African Community, more so when many countries are yearning to join the region as well as the Great Lakes region .
We will have the capacity to export processed food stuffs to the wider Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) economic bloc but only if our local investors are supported and encouraged to invest in the agro products.
Last month, the Minister of State for Investment and Privatization, Hon. Evelyn Anite together with officials from the Uganda Free Zones Authority visited one of the growing agro-processing investors, Hajji Hamis Kiggundu the proprietor of Ham Agro Processing Industries.
Hon. Anite commended businessman Hamis Kiggundu for creating employment opportunities for Ugandans by choosing to invest in Uganda.
The minister promised to support the post-harvest handling for export and the entire project.
Ham Agro-Processing Industries is setting up an integrated agro-processing industrial park at ten important crop and livestock production zone locations in Uganda.
The Integrated agro-processing industrial park will put its priority on business dealing with high value-added fresh fruits, vegetables and food processing industry, which have comparative advantages in quality.
Talking of export promotion, for us as a country to increase our exports, we must heavily invest in agriculture and agro-processing.
Our country is endowed with a favorable climate and good soils but we have not taken advantage of them very well.
The northern region of this country has a great potential for mango production.
With strategic government intervention, the country could earn a lot of foreign exchange by exporting fresh mangoes and fruit juice to the rest of the world but this has always not been given priority and now with the seriousness and investment by Ham, I think the country is set to benefit from exporting a variety of agro products.
Local investment plays a critical role in building community wealth and international business relationships.
Once this project is finalized, it will help Ugandans in the agro produce industry to market their products regionally and internationally.
Marketing goods internationally and regionally comes with value addition on the products in assessing, sorting, quality analysis and managing packaging which our local investors like Ham aim for.
It will also provide needed capital to local businesses, which helps create and preserve local jobs and ensures healthier, local economies.
When such projects come into the country, they create jobs for the people more so since it’s a local investor, our own Ugandans will be the ones managing and running the industry.
This does not only bring money in their pockets but also improves on their experience in the agro-processing sector.
Like any other business, local business success generates increased tax revenues for localities, which can be used to support important community needs and the country at large.
Since local businesses are likely to rely on local suppliers and service providers, such investments also have a positive economic multiplier effect that helps ensure that local shilling will remain and recirculate within the community.
This comes when local farmers cooperate with the company owners in buying and marketing their products hence improving the income standards of local farmers.
I am very much aware the Uganda Investment Authority proposed that local investors involved in agro-processing qualify for a one-year income exemption. Import duty on plant and machinery for agro-processing is also exempt.
All inputs for manufacturing in agro-processing are duty free (zero rated).
However, our local investors need some empowerment and benefits like the foreign ones get from the government because they play a big part in the country’s economic development, employing our own citizens and there is no profit repatriation once a local investor has set a business in his/her country.