KAMPALA – Farmers and exporters of fruits and vegetables want the Ministries of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and that of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives to weigh in on the officials frustrating the sector.
According to Aguse Kalimba, a farmer and strategic exporter of hot pepper to the European market, officials at the Agriculture Ministry continue to show less interest in promoting quality and concentrate on acquiring commissions.
“The will of the officials at the Ministry of Agriculture is not about serving the country but about themselves. One official told me that we shall not have anything processed,” said Kalimba.
He observed that officials who inspect farms for crop quality assurance often charged over UGX.600,000 and do not issue any certification documentation.
Francis Mawejje, an exporter of fruits and vegetables said there were undocumented inspection and facilitation fees paid to inspectors of goods much of which goes un-receipted.
“We know that we are tax-free as per Government regulations on exporting, but these are fees that have been created by individuals in the Agriculture Ministry,” Mawejje said.
He called on Parliament to prevail and have investigations of the officials and bring them to book, ‘so as to check on the bureaucracies affecting the export of fruits and vegetables from Uganda’.
The concerns were raised in a meeting with the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga who received a petition from farmers and exporters of fruits and vegetables on Tuesday, 18 February 2020.
Presenting the petition, Hasifah Tushabe, the project coordinator for the Horticulture Promotion Organization of Uganda said that they are also faced by challenges of management of pests and diseases.
“The responsibility of managing pests and diseases is on the Agriculture Ministry and thus we still need technical assistance to manage all these conditions. ,” said Tushabe.
She also called on the Ministry of Agriculture to establish a seamless predictable and user-friendly system for inspection and issuance of phytosanitary certificates.
The State Minister for Animal Industry, Hon. Bright Rwamirama expressed concern over the failure by inspectors to issue inspection reports to farmers. “In as much as I have heard, it is a problem of individual and I promise to take up this matter and address it. We should be helping farmers to keep standards and export their produce,” said Rwamirama.
The Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde proposed that an inter-ministerial committee is established to check on the challenges faced by exporters in the country and create standard procedures of doing things.
“The committee should comprise the Trade, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs Ministries and exporters so as to solve all these issues that have been raised,” Kyambadde said.
Kadaga commended the exporters for presenting their concerns which she said needed urgent attention by the stakeholders in charge to promote Uganda’s economy.
“Hon. Rwamirama will give us a report in 14 days on areas of intervention and processes that will be engaged in. We need to protect their businesses,” Kadaga said.