Members of Parliament (MPs) have called on the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to involve farmers while setting standards for both farm and production inputs.
This, according to MPs, will help to guide farmers on the quality of the inputs to be used to enable them (farmers) to widen the scope of market competition.
Ronald Akugizibwe (Buruli County), Veronica Nanyondo (Bukomansimbi district Woman) and Rachel Magoola (Bugweri district Woman) were attending the national dialogue and dissemination meeting of the value chain study in Kampala Tuesday, October 11, 2022, when they made the call.
The event, which was running under the theme: strengthening the Agricultural Value Chain Through Dialogue and Inclusion, was aimed at finding a clearer pathway to realign farmers to concentrate on quality production.
According to Akugizibwe, most of the farmers, especially those in villages are cheated by traders he called ‘dealers’, who tend to buy their produce at below market value.
This, he said, makes the middlemen benefit more than the farmers.
He added that farmers are always cheated because the quality of their products is below the required standard.
Akugizibwe also observed that most farmers sell off all their products and end up starving because they do not have granaries or well-equipped storage facilities.
“The inputs and machinery do not favour the local farmers because they are too expensive for them. The Government should ensure farmers are accessing the inputs to boost productivity,” Akugizibwe said.
Food crisis in the country
The study by Caritas Uganda revealed that a section of farmers has opted out of agriculture citing the high cost of farm inputs.
According to the study carried out last year, prices of the inputs, especially of seeds, fertilisers and insecticides skyrocketed during and post-COVID-19 lockdown, which made farming expensive.
This, according to Dr Gabriel Elepu, the head of the department of agribusiness and natural resource economics at Makerere University, accounts for the current food crisis in some parts of the country.
Elepu said the Government should subsidise the prices of the inputs to reverse the status quo since agriculture has for long been the backbone of the country’s economy.
“It is pleasing that some women and youth are still engaged in agriculture even when the inputs are still costly. It will only be better if the Government comes in to save the situation before it turns worse,” Elepu said.
Elepu was presenting the outcomes of the study carried out in 2021 covering the eastern and central regions. This was during the national dialogue and dissemination meeting of the value chain study.
The meeting, which ran under the theme; “Strengthening the agricultural value chain through dialogue and inclusion”, was attended by farmers, representatives from different farmers’ groups and legislators.
Due to the high cost of fertilizers, the usage dropped from 68,000 metric tons to something like 40,000 metric tons in the first half of 2022, according to Wilfred Thembo, an agriculture policy analyst and consultant.
And this affected production in the first season of this year, and all through the second season, leading to low production hence the constant high commodity prices including food items.
The low levels of production in the first season were confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture, which revealed that due to the high cost of inputs as a result of Covid 19, some parts of the country experienced food shortages at the end of the first season.
This has since been proved by starvation in different parts of the country, which has been more visible in Northern and North Eastern districts like those in parts of Teso and Karamoja sub-region.
He also noted that the Government should utilise the ongoing Parish Development Model (PDM) campaign to improve the standard of farm produce to enable farmers to explore the international market.
Agricultural products account for up to 80% of total Ugandan exports. The most important exports are coffee (22%), followed by tea, cotton, copper, oil and fish. The country’s main export partners are Sudan 15%, Kenya 10%, DR Congo, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
Dr. Francis Ndamira, the director of Caritas Uganda, said some farmers are working hard and only need support and guidance from the Government and the extension workers to step-up productivity.
He said the Government should centralise the agricultural services to determine the standard of the produce from farmers.
“The government needs to increase awareness and create market linkages both locally and internationally to encourage farmers to engage in farming,” Ndamira said.
The statistic shows that in 2021, agriculture contributed about 23.8% to the GDP of Uganda, 27.09% came from the industries and 41.94% from the services sector.