UNBS Advised to Target Farmers For Quality Supply of Food

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards-UNBS has been challenged to adjust its style of operation to target farmers in its pursuit of ensuring the quality supply of food on the market. 

The proposal has been made by the dealers and operators of grains milling factories in Masaka region, who want the standards body rolls down its operations to farmers other than focusing on the processors who usually join the food production chain as second and third-party players. 

Mariam Namaganda, the Director of Bukomansimbi Grain Milling factory, faults UNBS operations teams for not paying attention to the primary producers of the grains; the farmers, yet they make a bigger contribution to the quality of the final product on the market.

She argues that the millers and operators of food stores have usually been indicted and penalized for violating the standards of food products such as flour and other farm produce, yet the quality was compromised by farmers at the post-harvest handling stages.

Nalubega explains that some grains are obtained from framers after they are contaminated with molds and other impurities, which contribute to high levels of aflatoxins hence affecting the quality of products. 

Charles Mukiinwa, the manager at SK Millers in Bukomansimbi town council prefers that UNBS concentrates much of its effort on sensitizing farmers on proper post-harvesting practices, other than stopping at the certification of processors, who largely receive grains as raw materials. 

He has challenged UNBS to work out programs of directly engaging farmers on produce quality management; for purposes of ensuring holistic participation in standards creation throughout the whole food production chain.  

Edward Bunwabugali, Proprietor of Kitasibwa Milling Factory in Bukomansimbi district, says that apparently, the public is also ignorant about the acceptable quality standards of food as required by UNBS, which creates a variation depending on the preferences and interpretations of different people. 

According to him, unless the standards body gets interested in what happens at every stage of the food production chain and guides appropriately, the quality of food on the market may not improve as required. 

But Syliva Kirabo, the UNBS Spokesperson argues that they are not directly charged with sensitization of farmers on ensuring the quality of their produces, saying this is the role of agricultural extension staff and local government structures that have probably abdicated their responsibilities.

 As a remedy, she advises the millers to desist from receiving low-quality grains from the farmers, which she says will by default compel them to improve their post-harvest standards to attract the market.  

Notably, in March 2021, the Kenya Agricultural and Food Authority-AFA banned maize exports from Uganda due to food safety concerns after the grains were found to contain unacceptable high levels of aflatoxins; which are known cancer-causing substances. Despite the lifting of the ban, the grains are being subjected to serious scrutiny to ensure they are not dangerous to lives. 

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