By ABCafrica reporter
There has been an increasing demand of food specifically the staple food. Agricultural production needs to re-route a bit to find the right track to comply with government standards, as it thrives to feed its citizens and the global aspect in general. Farm machinery has been quite a task to acquire and has had negative impact in the field. Uganda has outlined strategies geared at enabling the country tap into the growing regional food market. According to Uganda Ministry of Agriculture sources, food crops; where Uganda has a comparative advantage over others and can be marketed in the East African Community (EAC) will be prioritized.
Okasaai Opolot, the director crop resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, says the move will help position Uganda as a regional food basket. Food crops, including maize, rice, beans, bananas, and cassava, which are mainly consumed in the region, have so far been identified under this strategy. “We are looking at staple foods because Uganda is privileged to be having two rain seasons that favour the production of the selected crops which makes it a regional food basket,” Opolot said.
He added that, through the regional food balance sheet, the ministry is aware of the regional food demands which give a clear direction of production. To ensure that the selected commodities meet the demands of the market, strategic interventions in processing to add value and marketing are being considered by the ministry. “We know the demand and the level of production needed. We are confident that if we streamlined mainly through post-harvest handling, meet grain standards, streamline the marketing, turn informal marketing to formal, Uganda will benefit more,” added Opolot. Available information shows that Kenya, South Sudan, and the DR Congo are food deficit countries, which presents an opportunity for Uganda to consolidate her position as a food basket in the region.
The official, however, said that the promotion of food crops is in addition to other cash crops like cocoa, tea, cotton as well as coffee, which is still the principal traditional export. “But the most important thing is value-addition of food crops, because all food crops can go into the international market if we added value like cassava, by making starch and ethanol; maize by making cornflakes among others,” he added. Governments have put focus in motivating their farmers and cultivate their grounds to save money that would be used to import food from other countries. This, despite the different climatic conditions that occur, will be a huge milestone as it would form the strata of dependency in East African countries.
According to USAID’s Feed the Future programme, staple foods such as maize, wheat, rice, beans, millet, potatoes, and cassava are the fastest-growing set of commodities in agricultural trade in eastern and southern Africa, with an estimated annual value of $50 billion. This represents 75 per cent of total agricultural products traded; adding that regional markets in East Africa opens opportunities to balance regional supply and demand, opening up opportunities and incentives to increase productivity. These are sometimes affected by factors such as weather; infrastructure; policies; and local, short-term changes in supply and demand.