KAMPALA – Mr. Fred Zaake, the Executive Director for Hortifresh, an umbrella body for dealers in fresh fruits and vegetables in Uganda has said that today, exporting horticulture to Europe, which is the biggest market for produce one goes through different stops in Kenya, Addis, Amsterdam which makes it hard for them.
“Each of those stops costs time and money, and increases the flight charges and yet we are competing with Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. So our produce is like second class, remember this is perishable.”
“We have asked the government to take this as a priority, to make sure that we have a cargo plane for Uganda airlines so that it can go DRC, Somalia, Europe, Dubai, all these are markets. When you are competing, these are some of the investments that are supposed to be done by the public sector so that they support the private sector,” he noted.
Zaake made a call on Wednesday during the European Union-Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries horticulture symposium to discuss and address issues affecting Uganda’s vegetable exports to the EU market at Hotel Africana.
He also decried some pesticides that are not permitted and yet are available on the local market.
“The use of these pesticides needs to be properly controlled and people need to be trained. Sometimes people are not spraying the recommended intervals before harvesting. Also, in the EU market, the requirements continue to change.”
Dr. Caroline Nankinga, the Assistant Commissioner for Phytosanitary and Quarantine in the Ministry of Agriculture commended the EU for advising and supporting Uganda to change its management practices and the treatment that it applies to crops.
According to her, between 2016 and 2019, Uganda used to grow a lot of horticulture commodities that were affected by pests especially because farmers didn’t know how to manage pests.
“Pests could just attack crops, have harmful organisms in them and then exported with them. The EU made two audits, in 2016 and 2019 and they found that unless we change the way we do things they’ll not allow crops to go to EU.”
She notes that now farmers can grow good seeds, apply good agronomic practices, and apply traps to reduce the risks.
“We have trained them on how to harvest properly, how to transport the produce reducing the right risks of those farm organisms and we continue to inspect the produce to make sure that all diseases and the affected produce is not exported, even at the airport we’ve increased our inspections,” she noted.
Ms. Ines Bastos, the Regional Program Manager for Caribbean –Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP) that manages the fit-for-market program said that they are currently implementing “the fit-for-market SPS” program in Uganda. The program which is funded by the European Union started in 2018 and it will finish 2023.
At the event, EU and Uganda launched the continuation of that program, which is called the “fit for Market Plus”, a five-year program which was signed recently.
Bastos says that through the programs, they support the private sector; cooperatives associations, companies, small and medium enterprises, the micro-enterprises that are not only exporting but also producing for local markets for regional markets.
Their support, she says is through technical assistance to trainings on good agricultural practices, managing pest problems, on technical agronomic aspects, but also trainings linked to business aspects in general.
“So, this is where the private sector will then will also work with the public sector with the Ministry of Agriculture.”
“This is a guide that will then be used by the private sector, with technical interviews and really good practices that should be taken by the different stakeholders. We are also working on what we call an assessment tool, it’s quite comprehensive, the work we’ve been developing with the public sector, still not used to be done because the environment in Europe is being very demanding in terms of food safety and all the SPS aspects.”