Besides Exports, EU Seeks to Improve Quality Products Consumed in Uganda

To break the longstanding Ugandan practice of exporting the highest quality and consuming the poorest quality of their own products, the European Union has extended support to improve the quality of locally consumed fruits and vegetables as well.  

Under the Fit for Market program, the quality of the fruits, vegetables, and flowers Uganda exports to the European market, has reasonably improved to NIL iterceptions of the exports this year. This performance is attributed to intervention which started in 2018.  

Earlier, Uganda’s fruits, vegetables and flower exports met several hurdles in European markets to the verge of suspension in 2019, posing a threat to a USD 100 million trade.  

In the renewed 5 years program dubbed Fit for Market Plus, the focus is put on making the locally consumed fruits and vegetables equally qualitative. And it will be implemented by Coleacp Association.  

Ines Bastos, the Coleacp regional program manager, says that the program is worth 25 million Euro, and will cover Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, in extending technical support to the public and private sectors. She adds the support will not be limited to the products but will extend to business practices to help shift Ugandans from thinking subsistence to business.   

“We will train on business aspects in general, how to run a business, cost-benefit, and how to go from the perspective of a subsistence to business focus,” she says.  

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has always advocated for the shift population’s focus from subsistence to a market-driven approach, and this might be a good starter.

According to Museveni, a market-driven approach leads to the production of quality products, that are easily consumed and this is a springboard for the entire country’s economic growth, as it will increase disposable income and hence increase demand which calls for more production of various goods.  

Bastos says that the Fit for Market program, is a demand-driven approach, where whoever seeks to benefit from it, applies and is worked on.

A fragmented private sector without a common voice and a limited budget that excludes sectoral infrastructure development and the purchase of necessary equipment, according to Bastos, has been the most challenging aspect of the program in the past.  

Caroline Nankinga, the Phytosanitary and Quarantine and assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Agriculture, says that such interventions have made life for Ugandan farmers easy because now they understand what the market requires of them unlike before, which is a very positive gesture to the sector.

To Nankinga, there is a need for public and private sector agencies to work together, and also for improvement of the infrastructure, and market information determinations, as well as growth in the private sector to do self-regulation. 

“The fruits and vegetable sector especially for export is very risky, and farmers can easily get out of business, so they also need tailor-made government incentives like any other sectors” she adds.

Fred Zaake, the executive director for Hortifresh, the umbrella association for fresh fruits and vegetable dealers in the country, says that this initiative has played and will continue to play a very critical role in the sector, because since these products are highly perishable, maintaining quality is not negotiable.

According to Zaake, under this sector, there is a lot of informal trade mainly with the neighboring countries, and within the country, when quality is worked upon, more income will come in.  

Improved quality of these products, will, in turn, improve the safety of the food Ugandans consume. Records from food rights activists indicate that over 420,000 people in Uganda feed on unsafe food, many of whom die because of the shortcomings of such food.

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