Caroline Komujuni is a sweet potato processor under the Naumugongo Millers. Her challenge is access to raw materials for processing.
She explains that recently, she secured an order to supply one metric tonne of sweet potato flour on a weekly basis, but because of the lack of readily available fresh tubers, she is likely to miss out.
Apart from the inadequate supply of sweet potatoes, she also lacks appropriate machinery to increase production in a short time, at the same time maintaining quality. Available data shows that sweet potato production has stagnated at 1.8 million for the last 4 years. Those are some of the challenges that sweet potato processors are faced with, in an attempt to add value for increased incomes.
Komujuni shared her plight recently, during the launch of the Sweet Potato Value Chain Development project, supported by the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovations through the Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development in Uganda (CURAD).
The project seeks to develop different products from the sweet potato value chain, first of all to increase production and substitute wheat imports but also help farmers earn from a crop that many don’t consider commercially viable, according to the Principal Investigator Dr Frank Matsiko.
He explained that sweet potatoes have many advantages including nutritional, bakery and food security crop, but the financial angle has been neglected for a long, hence the low production.
“Through the project, we shall work with all groups of people including transporters to make sure that we increase production for the products we shall have developed, with a commercial aspect,” Matsiko said.
According to the CURAD incubation centre, the products will be developed by farmer groups already into sweet potato production for commercial purposes under the supervision of food scientists from Makerere University.
He added that at the end of the six-month product development phase, they will then go through the second phase that will involve working with more farmers to increase production of sweet potatoes for selected products.
However, the production will focus on selected varieties, especially varieties that are good for value addition, according to Gaston Tumuhimbise, a food scientist from Makerere University.
He adds that so far varieties that are being processed for commercial purposes include Orange fleshed sweet potatoes, which have been enriched with Vitamin A.