The Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja has officiated at the ground breaking ceremony for construction of a $10 million (approximately shs37.8 billion) airside solar powered perishable cargo handling centre funded by aBi Development Ltd.
The fresh handling phytosanitary and fresh perishable center at Entebbe will be constructed through a partnership between aBi Development Ltd and Fresh Handling Uganda Limited whereas government of Uganda donated two-acre piece land next to Entebbe International Airport on which the facility is being built.
Speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday in a speech read by Minister Bahati, Prime Minister Nabbanja said the facility will be a big boost in Uganda’s quest to increase agro exports.
“It is exciting to know that this facility will also offer a range of services including customs clearance, product inspection, security screening, air transport, coordination, ground handling, and cold storage. The primary goal is to enhance the shelf life of our horticulture products generate employment opportunities, especially for value groups like women youth and also improve on the overall quality of our exports,”Nabbanja said.
The Prime Minister said the facility aligns perfectly with government’s efforts to increase the volume of the country’s exports but also maintain its position as the second largest horticulture exporter in Sub Saharan Africa.
“ This infrastructure upgrade will not only boost the quality of our exports, but also position Uganda’s fresh fruits and vegetables sector comprehensive in the region and in the global markets. With improved quality and increased value, Uganda’s fresh fruits and vegetables are poised to thrive for the international stage”
Nabbanja hailed the collaboration between aBi Development Limited and Fresh Handling Limited to start construction of the facility which she said is not only a strategic move but will also a statement of government’s dedication to create jobs for Ugandans.
According to officials, the facility to be used by Fresh Handling Uganda, a consortium for fresh cargo exporters will enable the horticulture sector grow export from current under 10,000 metric tons fetching $ 49 million to 25,000 metric tons to fetch $ 150 million for Uganda and number of persons employed from 9,000 today to over 30,000.
The Danish Ambassador to Uganda, Signe Winding Albjerg underscored the importance of the facility in boosting Uganda’s agro exports.
“This is truly a major milestone in Uganda for the horticulture industry, but possibly also broader in the green agribusiness industry. This facility has the potential to generate exports in thousands of tons and more importantly with that revenue and jobs throughout the value chain, and combined with a strong focus on renewable energy,” she said.
Describing it as one that marks the future of green industrialization in Uganda, the Danish Ambassador said fresh handling is another example of the many and large programs where Denmark and the EU together contribute to concrete visible job creation in key economic sectors of Uganda.
“The cold storage facility will increase the horticulture industry’s by enabling exports to all those markets around the world. It will also build on Uganda’s strategic location in the East African Community which provides a competitive advantage in regional markets that should also be an exploit.”
She said the facility shows the importance played by the private sector and partnerships in the development of any country.
“It’s only the private sector that has the financial muscles and the innovative capacity to drive the progress, the transformation that Uganda really needs as public sector actors and international actors. All we can do is do our best to promote the private sector to make the private sector stronger, and to provide the financing or the opportunities needed for the private sector to grow. I think fresh handing is a very great example of us trying to do exactly that.”
Speaking on Friday, Paul Mwambu, the commissioner in charge of crop inspection and certification in the Ministry of Agriculture said the facility will play a great role in ensuring phytosanitary standards.
“The World Trade Organization put a requirement that while you trade with partners you should transmit pests and diseases. What you trade with them must be safe. It is important to ensure what you send out is safe for human consumption. One of our key challenges has been pests finding their way into products leaving the country which is not acceptable since it puts the importing country risk of getting the pests. This facility will help deal with this,” Mwambu said.
He however noted that whereas the fresh cargo handling facility will help on enforcing standards, it is not enough.
“This facility is a great milestone but in itself alone won’t be sufficient since production starts at farm. There are some interventions to be made at farm to maintain the standard of produce but also the transporting segment, pack houses where sorting and packing are done must have minimum standards to be followed. Constructing the facility is very good but we still have more to do to ensure quality which may not be changed at exit point. It must be ensured at farm level.”
Felix Okoboi said the phytosanitary and fresh perishable center is an example of the green investments that they have championed in Uganda.
“As an organisation, we are proud to be walking the talk as demonstrated by the introduction of these green financing opportunities in Uganda. With the more funding from DANIDA and the European Union, our investments will continue to reduce the vulnerability of the agribusiness and financial sectors to the impacts of climate change. Also critical, we shall continue equipping the market and specifically our partners with information and tools necessary to drive the green transition to create new green jobs and catalyse green financing in Uganda,” Okoboi said.
He also applauded the Danish government and the European Union for continued support towards Uganda’s socio-economic growth.
According to Daniel Kiryango, the chairman board of directors for Fresh Handling Uganda, the facilities they currently use don’t meet the current modern exit point requirements as required by international standards and lead to delay in clearing of Uganda fresh exports especially to Europe.