By John Ricks Kayizzi
With the global market value for tradable grains projected to be $3.8b by 2030, experts have urged Ugandans to ensure that they comply with international standards so as to penetrate the market.
For the first time, maize has become Uganda’s second leading export earner after coffee. Maize fetched $35m (about sh130b) in January 2023, up from $20.5m in December 2022. One year ago, the earnings from maize exports were only $6.7m, according to the latest performance of the economy report released by the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Low market information and poor application of grading standards in the grain subsector, which include maize, millet, rice, and sorghum, remains a major impediment to its growth, has however continued to constrain Uganda’s export potential.
Uganda grains market is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% by 2028. The growing demand for grains in the East African region drives the market.
The grain sub-sector occupies a strategic position in ensuring the country’s food security alongside other crops such as bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes.
“Not knowing the market price for your produce disadvantages you and leaves you at the buyers’ mercy. At the same time not knowing the grade of the grain is a sure guarantee that you will not get your produce’s value worth,” Deborah Kyarasiime the Managing Director Uganda Warehouse Receipt System Authority (UWRSA) stated.
She said as grain is increasingly becoming a major income earner for farmers with fairly stable prices due to growing regional and local demand, grading has become an absolute necessity.
“We are currently working with cooperative societies, unions and other farmer groups to help them access market information and to support the grading of their produce. Farm gate prices for grain currently stands at sh1,000-sh1300, and this can even be doubled, with grading and market information,” said Kyarasiime.
She made the pronouncement while meeting farmers in the Bunyoro sub region, under the stewardship of Bunyoro Kingdom. Sensitisation workshops were conducted by UWRSA in nine Bunyoro sub region districts which included Hoima, Kakumiro, Kikube, Masidi and Kagadi.
She urged farmers to embrace the warehouse receipt system which looks at helping farmers store their produce in bulk, by keeping it in a licensed warehouse where it is graded.
“You are henceforth given a warehouse receipt which can be used to look for markets or use in the banks as collateral. Join co-operatives and farmers unions in order to benefit from the system because this enables you raise the needed quantities for sale to bulk purchasers,” she said, adding, “It arms you with the ability to negotiate better prices from the buyers.”
“The system is also a good answer to the low prices farmers normally experience during bumper harvest since it gives them an opportunity to store the produce,” she noted.
Kyarasiime said government, through UWRSA was in the final stages of signing an MOU with major banks to support the warehouse receipt system through receipt discounting, where farmers can access advance payment on stored produce as they wait for the buyers.
“You can ably use this system as a stepping stone into the oil and gas sector as food suppliers to companies involved.”
Charles Goodyear Kisembo, the Bunyoro Kingdom Production Secretary stressed the need for more agriculture extension support services to farmers at the grass root for better production.
“Farmers cannot do much if they are not facilitated to do embrace better farming practices, and extension services are key in all this,” he said.
He also highlighted the need to build more storage facilities to help reduce post-harvest losses.