President Yoweri Museveni has directed the immediate amendment to plant and animal health laws to save Uganda from losing $200m (about sh762b) in exports of agricultural products to markets in the European Union and the United Kingdom due to, among others, residues.
The President also wants Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija and Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Francis Mwebesa to ensure they set in place the required human resource like inspectors at ports and exports, to ensure compliance and quality for our products.
The President also asked the three ministers to ensure they explore promoting Uganda as a producer/supplier of organic horticultural products.
“The sub-county extension officers should sensitise the farmers on using composite manure to enrich soils. Those keeping poultry, piggery and cows could be a good source of organic manure. The livestock farmers can invest in bio-digesters that remove methane from the cow dung and turn it into bio-gas for cooking and lighting,” Museveni said.
He noted that the residues from the digester, which is bio-slurry, is both an organic fertiliser and a pesticide.
“The use of biogas for cooking will save our trees. If we promote these, we will save the environment and, at the same time, promote Uganda as a source of organic products which has a big niche in the export market,” he added.
Artificial fertilisers are plant nutrients produced through chemical processes to nurture soil and foster plant growth. Artificial fertilisers mainly consist of plant macronutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and sulphur, but lack other essential substances (micronutrients).
They are derived from by-products of the petroleum industry. Their examples include ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, superphosphate and potassium sulfate. Uganda’s exports to EU mainly include agricultural products like coffee, fruits and vegetables, flowers, fish and fish products.
In his letter dated August 24, 2022 on key constraints affecting Uganda’s export compliance and competitiveness to the United Kingdom and European Union markets, Museveni indicated that Uganda has been losing sh762b due to what he termed as “unseriousness in handling our export products”.
“The impediments include high chemical residues of farm produce and poor post-harvest handling, which includes lack of cold storage chain from the farm to the airports ready for export,” Museveni stated.
Reminding the ministers of the two EU audits of 2016 and 2019 of Uganda exports, the President said the “audit report identified critical areas and recommended measures that we need to take in order to access external markets. The gaps include lack of exit point inspections and uncredited laboratory facilities, among others,” Museveni said.
Museveni also noted: “I was further informed that some provision of our law governing food safety need to be amended. These laws include Food Safety Law of 1964, The Public Health Act of 1964, The Plant Protection Act 2016, and the regulations on Grain Quality Against Aflatoxins, among others.”
The President stated that he was concerned that as government moves towards ensuring that there is increased agricultural production through the Parish Development Model for smaller farmers and other Government agencies to support large-scale farmers, there is need to secure bigger markets for the agricultural products.
“It is, therefore, important that we handle the issues of amending the relevant laws so that they become effective and also fill the other gaps that block our access to external markets,” Museveni indicated.
He particularly asked the ministers to examine how poor standard agricultural chemicals reach the farmer yet there is, the National Drug Authority mandated to approve agricultural chemicals being used in the country.
The President attributed the existence of residues on products to lack of extension services where farmers are educated about the right chemicals to be used and when to harvest after spraying the chemicals.
For mobilisation, the President directed the agriculture ministry to register farmers for purposes of traceability, while the trade ministry should link up with the exporters to ensure that they have cold chains, even if they are to be provided by the Government.
“This is a trade infrastructure needed to support both the farmers and the exporters,” he said.
“We are acting on his directives. We are already revising the legal framework to be in line with what he stated,” Tumwebaze said on Wednesday, without giving details.
In March this year, New Vision published a three-part series on the dangerous crop chemicals in the markets. The investigations by New Vision found that some of the chemicals could cause cancer.
Experts weigh in
Moses Oburu, the Business Development Manager at Vermipro, which is the first regionally certified manufacturer of organic fertilisers in the brands of superagric, vermichar, vermicompost and organic-certified crop protection products like biopesticides, and organic fungicides, among others, welcomed the presidential directives.
He said their company has organic fertilisers which are 100% manufactured from Uganda and are 50% less costly compared to chemical alternatives, yet increase crop yields by over 25% and that they are registered by the agriculture ministry and certified by Uganda National Bureau of Standards.
“The products are made from industrial microbiology processes in which microorganisms responsible for soil health and fertility are isolated, cultured and high-concentrated to levels that ensure optimum nutrients are naturally fixed in the soils when applied,” Oburu said.
He noted that the fertilisers are effective on all crops.
On whether they had the capacity to supply the local markets, Oburu said: “The current installed capacity can produce inputs for 400,000 hectares per month without the need for expansion and products are available for immediate supply to farmers. Distributors are still sought to enable farmer access.”
He also said their company had received expressions of interest for export to over 12 countries within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African, the South African Development Community and the Gulf region.
On how those in the rural areas can access the products, Oburu said: “Farmer groups and organisations can engage the company, get product knowledge and are supplied jointly or local agents can take up the business opportunity. Once adopted, this value chain would create an additional 2,000 jobs directly in the horticultural sector.”