Uganda is enjoying increased capacity to access more profitable regional and European markets for its fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to a project aimed at helping the country comply with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements.
Uganda is now exporting 5.8 million tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables worth US$35 million a year – second only in Sub-Saharan Africa to Nigeria which produces around 11 million tonnes a year.
Delegates at an end of project seminar – held recently in the Uganda’s capital Kampala – heard that 1,400 smallholder farmers have been trained on SPS compliance to facilitate trade on goods including chillies, jack fruit, mango, basil, bitter guard and okra.
The training emphasised the importance of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), food safety and awareness of SPS export requirements. A total of 70 Inspectors and Commissioners have also been equipped with tools to conduct their work – such as inspection kits and personal protective clothing.
Crop pests and diseases which came under focus as part of the training included false codling moth, fruit flies, potato virus Y (PVY), mango stone weevil, psyllids, thrips, white flies and leusinodes species.
Indeed, the project developed the capacity to conduct specific survey and monitoring systems (SSMS) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in respect of five priority pests.
The three-year project was funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), Word Trade Organisation (WTO), Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and the Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE).
CABI was contracted by STDF to manage the project in partnership with a range of partners including the Uganda Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association (UFVEPA), Uganda Agribusiness Alliance (UAA) and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).
Florence Chege, Project Scientist at CABI based at its Nairobi, Kenya, office, said, “Uganda’s rural agriculture drives the country’s economy and ability to ensure food security for its population.
“Around 84% of Uganda’s workforce is employed in the rural sector which contributes 42% percent of the national gross domestic product and 80% of the export earnings.
“However, we identified that Uganda was experiencing numerous and frequent interceptions of its fruit and vegetable exports to the EU because of pest and diseases.
“This was limiting the country from growing the agriculture sector to its full potential.
“We sought, therefore, to address specific gaps and issues that focused mainly on a low awareness and capacity to meet strict SPS requirements.
“Working with partners, Uganda now has greater capacity to ensure that its exports are safe and of a high standard demanded by customers not only in regional but also more profitable European markets.”
Ms Chege added that MAAIF now has in place at Kampala’s Entebbe International Airport round the clock inspectors working to ensure that all exports meet SPS requirements and where pests or diseases are intercepted these are recorded.
Ms Chege said, “There is now increased farmer and extension worker knowledge about the top commodities and their harmful organisms thanks to various training initiatives and communication materials produced on the export certification process.
“Importantly also, inspectors are equipped with tables and computers enabling them to keep a database of interceptions – which, ultimately helps with the traceability, efficiency and effectiveness of the SPS compliance process.”
The Government’s Uganda Vision 2040 identified agriculture as one of the key opportunities to strengthen the Ugandan economy and transform society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country.
The project helped map and prioritise which phytosanitary services required support and built the capacity of inspectors, farm scouts, farmers, transporters and traders on pest management along the production value chain
It also helped conduct inspections and managed pack houses. It also helped streamline the inspection and export certification system and produced a guide on Good Agricultural Practice for key export commodities; chilli and hot peppers, bitter gourd (Karela) and aubergines.
Furthermore, both private and public sector stakeholders appreciated the role the project played in bringing in the fragmented associate to a better level organisation of the multi-stakeholder platform that they envisaged as a beginning of organised export industry.
Uganda’s crop sub-sector, which includes horticulture, currently contributes around 14.4% of the national Gross Domestic Product and employs 70% of the country’s working population.