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Why Low Production Of Groundnuts Despite Growing Demand?

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By Prossy Nandudu and Joshua Kato

“I want a kilogramme of pasted ground nuts,” the young boy told the shop keeper in Kisaasi, Kampala. He had been given sh5,000. “This money is not enough. It should be sh8,000,” the shop keeper told the boy. When the boy went back to his father, he was surprised. Although groundnuts are a highly consumed delicacy, production remains far lower than the demand.

Groundnut is the second most widely grown legume in Uganda, after beans according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). There has been a substantial increase in the growing of groundnut as both a food and cash crop, mainly because of increased awareness of its value as a source of protein (23–25% content) and oil (45–52% content). However, yields remain low compared to national demand. According to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), farmers get an average 290kg per acre of dry seed against a possible 1,200 to 1,400kgs. Groundnuts are predominantly cultivated by smallholder farmers on the average of 0.5-1 acre of land for food security.

Although north and eastern Uganda – Teso, are traditionally growing areas, production has spread to Western especially areas around Rwenzori and Central regions as well.

According to the agriculture ministry, Uganda needs at least 300,000 tonnes of groundnuts, against a production of 160,000 tonnes. This is why the country depends on supplies from countries like Tanzania, and yet the country has got good soils to grow them.

Well-managed plots, using the right varieties, can yield 1-1.4 tonnes kg/per acre or more and the market for them is abundant. In 2020, a kilogramme went for sh4,500 in most urban shops. At the moment, a kilogram goes for sh7,000. Groundnut paste goes for sh8,000. “Production has been so low in the last two years that most of the stock we have comes from Tanzania and Malawi,” Gerald Muwanga, a dealer says.

To produce an acre of good quality ground nuts on a commercial scale, the average investment is about sh1.5m. At a yield of at least 500kg using minimal inputs, the average earnings are sh3.5m.  Most varieties mature in four months.

Highly consumed

Ground nut is consumed as a snack when roasted, as stew when milled or when roasted and ground to make peanut butter or paste, according to NARO researchers at the National Semi Arid Research Resources Institute (NaSARRI) based in Serere district.

Research from nutritionists adds that a handful of quality groundnuts, provides food nutrients equivalent to those found in one piece of chicken thigh or drum stick, two glasses of milk, two eggs, three cobs of maize, and 16 portions of sweet potatoes.

Eating quality groundnuts leads to health heart, more nutrition to mothers and children, healthy weight and more energy and longer, the experts add.

When it comes to groundnut oil, it is one of the healthiest because the highest smoking point at 232.2°C which makes it ideal for big hotels and restaurants and nutritionally conscious people.

With most foods cooking at about 100°C groundnuts oil is preferred for recycling unlike most oils with low smoking points.

Researchers add that groundnuts oil has a neutral taste that does not affect the dish that is being prepared. It also has a high shelf-life and can be stored for prolonged periods.

In terms of income, when cultivated on a large scale, one is able to earn quick incomes, due to the growing demand. 

Apart from direct income, of late, groundnuts are on demand for the production of ready to use therapeutic foods, needed by humanitarian agencies working with refugees and nutrition units of hospitals for the malnourished children.

And those making therapeutic foods are interested in nutritionally rich groundnuts, according to the head of groundnut program at NaSARRI, Dr David Kalule Okello.

Other benefits from groundnuts are that they have industrial applications into production of charcoal briquettes, animal feeds from haulms and remnant oil cake, paper egg trays, added Okello.

Despite the benefits of groundnuts, its production is low, with only the eastern and northern parts of the country leading in production.

Additional information from the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicate that only 4% of Uganda’s arable land is used for groundnut production.

Groundnuts is grown on 413,000acres representing 4% of all the arable lands in Uganda where upon value addition, it could generate a total of US$1.2b, added Okello. The demand and rate of growth is positive at 3.08 meaning both production and yield per hectare is increasing.

Next we shall explore the reasons for the low production

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