By Isaac Nuwagaba
Agriculture ministry commissioner of crop protection Stephen Tibeijuka Byantwale has asked the Government to compel all farmers in Uganda to enforce high-quality production at local levels if it is to boost chances of exporting competitive agricultural products in international markets.
Many Ugandan smallholder rural farmers still face severe post-harvest crop loss or damage in tandem with a lack of access to appropriate post-harvest handling technology to enhance agriculture production for cash, nutrition, or food security needs at the household, community or national levels.
Byantwale says to compel farmers in Uganda to enforce quality production for international markets and local consumption needs systematic syndrome of training farmers to build a mindset of farming as a business enterprise.
“It is high time farmers started handling agriculture as a business, marketing agricultural products and managing farmer organisations themselves for the country to boost her export sector to increase our foreign exchange earnings,” he adds.
While addressing farmer organisations at Fair Way Hotel in Kampala on Friday, Byantwale asked the Government to develop extension models that allow farmers access to quality seeds before planting, cheap fertilisers, quality equipment, agro-processing facilities and post-harvest handling facilities to complete the entire agricultural value chain cycle.
“What Uganda needs before compelling all the farmers to enforce quality production is to intensify operations against fake dealers of agricultural supplies for both livestock and crop farming,” he added.
Byantwale said much as climate change is beyond human control in food security, farmers need quality handling of the little that they produce locally to improve export quality to East African Community (EAC) markets and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) countries.
“To achieve this, farmers need to improve appropriate technologies and practices that increase crop yields and household incomes,” he added.
David Wozemba Wetaka, the country director for Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), said farmers have failed to protect the safety of food commodities, especially through conducting regular monitoring for aflatoxin contamination in foods such as maize.
“Most of our crop production is contaminated during the process of harvesting, storing, and transporting which we highly call the government to be tough on such that we export the finest quality of agricultural products from Uganda,” Wetaka added.
Under favourable conditions such as high temperature and moisture, aflatoxins contaminate a large number of food commodities and regional crops during pre and post-harvesting.
Wetaka, however, asked the Government to introduce hermetic technologies in drying beans, coffee seeds, maize, cotton, matooke, sorghum and millet and construct factories which add value to the agricultural products for easy management, storage and export.
“The Government should not only provide enforcement elements to crack down on farmers who have failed, but to bring to the population extension workers at a cheap cost to increase production and food security of the nation,” he emphasized.
He challenged the Government to intensify operations of fake dealers who supply farmers with substandard agricultural inputs which have reduced the quality of production from farms.
The technical coordinator for nutrition-sensitive agriculture, Jackline Namusalisi said aflatoxins have increasingly caused cancer and other diseases among the locals to those who take such foods.
The Kenyan government banned maize imports from Uganda citing high levels of aflatoxin in the grain, before the related excuse on the quality of Ugandan milk and poultry products were raised affecting the international market.