President Yoweri Museveni has ordered a review of eight laws related to agriculture, to boost the country’s exports.
These include the law on food safety, which was last amended in 1964; the animal feeds law; the plant and crop protection law and the Veterinary Surgeons Act.
Odrek Rwabwogo, the senior presidential advisor on special duties and chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID), said Museveni gave the directive to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, recently.
“She (Nabbanja) is writing to lead institutions based on the President’s directive to ensure these laws which are a bit archaic and don’t measure up with what the World Trade Organisation and trading partners want, are amended,” he said on Saturday last week.
He made the remarks while featuring on the weekly Urban TV morning talk-show, Press Wall, hosted by Umaru Kashaka.
Saturday’s two-hour show, which starts at 9:00am, also had Moses Sabiiti, the former TradeMark East Africa-Uganda country director, and Lynn Gitu, the programmes leader at IMPACT, a non-governmental organisation which attempts to control the sourcing of minerals in regions of conflict.
The show discussed how Uganda could fully harness its industrial and export potential. Giving snippets of information about the proposed amendments, Rwabwogo said on the Veterinary Surgeons Act, they will, for instance, address the issue of incompetence If I come and operate on your goat or cow and it dies because of my incompetence, what do you do? On animal feeds law, if you mix copper in animal feeds and create a disease in a village, how do we treat you?” he asked.
Rwabwogo said the Government and Parliament will also look into the issue of treatment of animals.
He was appalled at the lack of compassion for the cattle transported from upcountry to Kampala in trucks.
“You have seen how cows are carried on trucks; the tourists who eat that meat see how you mistreat your animals and say you are not serious,” he said.
He also said the agricultural chemicals board will be tasked with controlling chemicals coming into the country and how they are used, how containers are destroyed after use and how to maintain the environment.
“All these things factor in what you call compliance measures on a global level. I thank the Prime Minister because when she picks something and understands it, she drives it. I also thank the President because he is the one who said let’s change these things for now and see what happens,” Rwabwogo said.
Rwabwogo also said they were working on the issue of markets.
“You can attract me as an investor, but if I won’t sell (my products), I will tell my colleague that here (in Uganda), things are not good.
“We went to key markets like DR Congo and Britain. We appointed trade representatives to go to the supermarkets and other markets, to see what people buy and eat and give us information to develop a catalogue of companies to help them with law regimes in those countries.”
Rwabwogo said as PACEID, they identified 13 key exports that will be targeted for aggressive growth in production and revenue over the next five years.
He said all these 13 are exports where Uganda has sufficient comparative advantage in target markets that if grown, sustainable industries and manufacturing structures can develop around each, creating employment and driving the economy.
They identified the exports using existing export data. The exports are coffee, sugar, grain, fruits and vegetables, poultry (meat), tourism, beef, dairy, cement, steel, fish, banana flour and flowers/plant materials.
Over sh370b lost per year
Moses Sabiiti, who is the vice-chairperson of PACEID and a trade facilitation specialist, said the biggest challenge for Uganda today in terms of exports is meeting best international standards.
“Uganda is losing over $100m (about sh370b) per year because of non-compliance with standards. For example, pesticides that were banned by some countries more than 20 years ago, unfortunately, are being used here in the horticulture industry,” he said.
Sabiiti said when they met the President after commissioning PACEID in March this year, they told him all the challenges they were facing as the private sector, and he decided to issue a directive to marshal the whole of government to focus on standards.
“Uganda has had two Euro audits and the most recent was in 2019, but the most interesting and quite annoying thing is finding that Uganda does not have enough inspectors at exit points, including the airport. So, Europe said they couldn’t easily accept our fruits and vegetables because of that and so would check our products 100%,” he said.
Sabiiti said they were dealing with that and lobbying Government a to make sure that the funds are channelled towards compliance with standards.
Gitu said standards cut across all sectors and that all stakeholders need to be brought on board to have a common understanding.
“We need to focus on even small business owners and smallholder farmers to understand this issue of standards and how it connects to the international market. For example, once a tourist visits our country and is served a rolex (rolled chapatti with eggs), the fresh tomato on it won’t come from big traders,” he said