Panel discussion: Agribusiness Leaders’ Roundtable: Uganda’s Agriculture Potential – Policies, Incentives, Trade Facilitation and Agri-infrastructure
Moderated by Prof Dr. Maggie Kigozi, Chairperson Zuri Model Farming
Panellists: Christabel Blanch, Alvan Blanch Development Company, Shahid Sheikh, MD, Clifton Packaging Group Ltd, Hon. Victoria Sekitoleko, Former Minister of Agriculture, Chairperson – Uganda Agribusiness Alliance, Hon. Migadde Robert (MP), Vice Chairperson, Comm. on Agriculture, Dr. Simon Kagugube, Executive Director, Centenary Bank, Hon. Keefa Kiwanuka (MP)
Maggie Kigozi the former head of the Uganda Investment Authority had done a lot of work with the Uganda Diaspora. After addressing the speakers, she acknowledged Dr. Ian Clarke whom she hailed as someone who needed to be emulated because he was very hard working and he was a go getter!
She affirmed that Uganda had beautiful soils because of all year round rainy seasons. There was abundant land whose policy was currently being looked at to ensure that was available for Agribusiness.
She invited the Chairperson of the Agribusiness Alliance; Victoria Sekitoleko who was happy to state that this was the best time to invest in Uganda Business.
She highlighted other countries’ challenges which Uganda didn’t suffer from for example;
Reduced resources: E.g. China had not get enough water and land.
Lack of good soil River.
Victoria reminded the audience that these were the days of High Tech availability to boost markets through social media and Ugandans were very much active on social media. It was also easy to start value chains: like coffee which required several stages until it reached the shelves.
Ugandans only needed capital because they already had thee brains with strong business acumen and land which was needed to start a business. There numerous opportunities in creating Avocado value chain for example because it was young, only two years old. The French have hailed Uganda Avocado as the best in the world!
Unfortunately: there were no people to create bulk processing systems for farmers to export despite the fact that the avocado was already there. When one considered Avocado powder which was in high demand, there wasn’t much done to meet the demands because the processing was currently on a very small scale.
Victoria reminded the audience about the boost of the Maize value in Uganda which was due to the 2016 draught in Africa. Almost all countries flocked Uganda for the cone which enabled local farmers to exploit and utilise the opportunity to supply.
Lack of capital.
Dr. Maggie highlighted that lack of funds was one of the major challenges in financing Agriculture; she invited Dr. Simon Kagugube Executive Director of Centenary Bank to address this since the bank had responded very well to Agribusiness.
Dr. Simon assured attendees that the bank encourages value chain processes to be financed through the bank’s Rural Development Programme. He said that championing the Agribusiness sits well with the bank through supporting value chain markets. The financing industry is keen to support agricultural investment in Uganda. He said that, the myth that financing poor communities was something was scary but centenary bank found a way of supporting such groups. They realised that such communities have some form collateral e.g. Kibanja (Land) and property. Although most of the collateral is not even sellable, they were confident that it is important to base the scheme purely on the integrity of individual; that they would be able to come back and service their loans.
“Poor people are more trustworthy than rich people” He stated.
Centenary Bank focused mainly on developing individuals; teach them about seasons, marketing, etc. It was rewarding to work with low income earners. Other banks were also getting on the programme because they realised that it was very lucrative.
He therefore confirmed that there was financing for the entire agriculture value chain by developing those products that would not only be processed but also made Uganda one of the biggest Agro processors in the region. The country had the potential if only the banks know-how as well as had the money to support even other businesses ventures.
Lack of Equipment
Maggie further highlighted on the lack of equipment where she introduced Alvan Blanch’s Christabel Blanch who was standing in for her father Andrew Blanch. Christabel was responsible for Africa Sales on behalf of the company. She stated that agriculture was something that Alvan felt very strongly about because it was one of the emerging fastest growing markets. due to the growth of small scale trader as well as the large businesses on the continent.
Touching on the importance of social media and internet she assured the attendees that the future was looking after the young people. We had to encourage youth to see agriculture as a big business opportunity.
Complete backwards integration to be able to buy the end product from small scale and medium farmers was necessary. This could easily be streamlined into back-growers.
Through supporting those like training them and ensuring that there are markets for their products, thus making farming interesting to young people because it’s the future. Equipment leasing schemes were essential because they allowed growth within the small sectors.
Grain trading centre were needed to ensure that there was a constant market for these groups. And for institution like Centenary Bank investments people had the opportunity for value addition.
For example, packaging which would lead Uganda to having products ready for export correspondingly boosting the foreign exchange market. She assured that “There is a huge market in Uganda as well as out of Uganda”.
On the challenge of packaging
Shahid Sheik of Clifton Packaging reminded the audience that it was their responsibility towards assisting several communities.
The common phrase “Trade not Aid” ended the discouragement of producing to export. He called upon countries to move with his times. Having come to Uganda with nothing, Shahid’s family had worked to become the leading packaging not only in UK but Europe. He believed that now was their time to go back to Africa and share the knowledge. The youth were the ones to be focused on because they were the next generation through knowledge transfer programmes. Shahid have been volunteering with the UK Government which he also wanted to do for Uganda.
Value addition processes was critical for the growth of the Agribusiness in Uganda. For example, the country exports approximately 1000 pounds per ton of pineapple but it reached the shelves with 20,000 pound a tonne which was a huge difference in value added. If only Uganda could have done part of the value addition! Uganda needed to do the right thing. There were so many products that Uganda had failed to capture in the chain to add value before they left the country!
Packaging materials like bio degradable films and ultra violet film, people needed to be aware of how many products are coming into Uganda e.g. from China, India and South Africa.
What is Uganda giving back?
Clifton Packaging was the only company which was put into the COMESA constitution for value added packaging that was 19 countries but to this day the company had not done any business in Africa because when they talked to them, they would get scared about value addition. Uganda needed to embrace such opportunities.
Clifton Packaging was so passionate about helping out in Africa to the extent that they created the BABA brand (Buy African Built Africa) to educate people to stop importing products, add value and export. This project was presented to the President of Uganda waiting for a go ahead. To this, Maggie clarified that Uganda decided on a private sector led economy and the Government was looking at the proposals at the moment.
MP Hon Robert Migadde of Buvuma island one of the beautiful islands on Lake Victoria assured the audience that the Government had almost tripled the budget of agriculture from 2014- 2015 was 320 billion which was almost doubled in 2017 – 2018 to 863 billion. The Government was also assisting in other areas like the provision of seeds and on some occasion’s cows. However, with NAADS being the biggest beneficiaries in the agriculture support they had not yet got the input not because of lack of government support.
There was a challenge of over reliance of natural rains where legislators had been brain-storming through the parliament. For example, this year the government procured 68 tractors although they were few compared to what was required. There was still a need for the provision of 168 tractors to commercialise agriculture. E.g. coffee needed a bigger budget. The country could not progress with rain fed agriculture. He called upon the Diasporas and investors to come in with cheap alternatives like irrigation to mechanise the sector.
Looking at coffee which left Uganda at $1 reaching the shelves at $20, he encouraged people to think about tapping into the value addition business.
Uganda used to have 11 fish processing factories currently there was only 3 due to depreciation of the lakes at 40%. Fishing being one of the booming industries, it could easily satisfy the international market. There was a need for more farmers in Fish farming or pisciculture!
Initiatives like seedlings and seeds were protected through bills to provide a good environment for businesses and to protect the quality. For example, there was the plant protection bill and the coffee bill to mention a few.
The 10-acre policy encouraged people to maximise the utilisation of land by looking at alternative ways of developing vacant soils.
Therefore, the role of government was:
Provision of fertilizers through the subside scheme.
Current projects included:
Hon Robert Migadde urged people to come up with business inputs that overcome some of the bottlenecks like pests and rain fed agriculture. “Come in and provide the necessary pesticides”, he said.
The responsibility of the Parliament was to provide necessary legislations, provide enabling environment and liaise with the government to subsidise farmers which had all been done. Therefore, individuals ought “not to just sweat a lot but to get a lot from their sweat”.
Hon Keefa Kiwanuka summarised the session by assuring that Uganda had the right opportunity for agribusiness because of the favourable policies. This sector was also recognised in the National Development Plan as one of the factors which would transform the economy. There was assured government’s commitment and willingness to invest in Agriculture. Uganda Development bank had some finances to support agriculture.
For challenges like lack of water for production, the government had put in a huge investment and had been committed to this cause. Partnerships were required to boost fertilisation because the land had over been re-used – it was becoming barren, value addition and mechanisation.
Increased focus on exporting Vs importing was important which was supported through the current private member’s bill in the parliament. This meant to stimulate and support farmers to access international markets.
He assured the audience that there was ample room for business and also for those who were interested in specialising in training due to the lack of knowledge of modern firming practises like crop rotation and the use of manure. “Uganda offers the best opportunity for anyone looking to invest in Agri business” he said.
Dr. Maggie Kigozi concluded the session by assuring that Uganda was ready for improved agriculture.
Infrastructure was a positive development in the country, there was enough energy through electricity, and the roads were of a respectable standard not to mention the standard gauge railway which factors were favourable for the value addition sector.
Making agriculture attractable for the middle class like; lawyers and doctors that is where the future is.
She therefore encouraged Diasporas to do homework to come and look at Uganda for the vast investment opportunities before it was too late.