So 2015 is the start of campaigns for the 2016 election year in Uganda, and President Museveni is preaching the gospel for the electorate on how they will grow and prosper in the times to come. One of the messages is Value addition in agriculture being key to Uganda’s growth along with commercial agriculture, which is being picked up and replicated by members of parliament.
However this is a flawed assumption, because it assumes that value addition is a fix for low agricultural productivity and revenues for small holder farmers. For anybody involved in any kind of value addition for agricultural products, the problem is that:
- The supply of the products is seasonal, low quality and inconsistent.
- The trade in products is largely comprised by “middlemen” who buy from the farmers at the lowest prices and try to sell to the consumers at the highest prices
- The market for value added products has to compete with lower priced imported products, which coupled with #1 does not make value addition profitable.
So what next, how does the President, government and leaders focus their energies to get agriculture to where it needs to be:
- Reduce the amount of counterfeit agricultural inputs especially seeds, agro-chemicals and fertilizers
- Improve financing opportunities for medium-holder farmers, who like the middle class bridge the gap between the small holders and large commercial farmers and concerns. The Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) is not readily available
- Support the growth of agricultural cooperative societies over SACCOs. The societies deal with bringing the farmers together to leverage economies of scale, and reducing the cost of production, as well as providing a support system via input aggregation, learning, marketing, post-harvest processing.
- Identify, and negotiate trade deals for agricultural produce with international markets, which can be fulfilled by co-operatives in #3 above leading to their sustainability
- Set quality standards for produce to ensure that the market standards in #4 above are met
- Provide incentives for post-harvest processing and value addition. Why would contracts to supply produce to schools, army, police etc not be passed through the Uganda Cooperative Alliance – no handouts, just opportunity to make a difference.
- Revive and support crop and animal specific associations
What are your thoughts?