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Article - November 13, 2014

Agriculture has been at the heart of the Ugandan economy for decades, but increasing access to global markets is highlighting the sector’s potential.

Farming already represents around 22.5 per cent of the East African nation’s GDP and accounts for the employment of more than 80 per cent of the population, but plans are now in place to focus these efforts on international markets to result in greater prosperity.

Improving farming efficiency is a key concern for Tress Bucyanayandi, who oversees the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, but developing new markets and adding value to raw materials now look set to provide valuable new sources of revenue for the country.

Mr Bucyanayandi says the country’s first priority is to ensure Uganda can provide for itself but admits there is great potential for exports, including expanding its existing crops sales and trading more of its dairy-based products.

“In the livestock sector, we have got a lot of cattle, at the moment 14 million heads. We are producing about 2 billion litres of milk, annually, which we want to export,” says the minister.  

He adds that beef and fish products could also become major exports, but says investment is required across the sector to increase farming efficiency and outflows.

Investors are needed to add value to products for export and to set up processing machinery within the country. Such investment could provide further growth to Uganda’s booming coffee market, which deals mainly in bean export.

Although 40 per cent is already processed inside the country, suitable manufacturing plants would allow more Ugandan coffee to be ground and processed on site, providing better returns for citizens and investors alike. Coffee has already been targeted by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as a key market – one that couldsee Uganda become the world’s second biggest coffee exporter – and Mr Bucyanayandi supports this view.

“We would like to see an investor coming, setting up machinery, and doing roasting and packaging here,” Mr Bucyanayandi says, who adds that investment opportunities are also available for packaging and other support services.

Mr Museveni has also introduced other initiatives intended to bolster growth in the agriculture sector, including the Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) programme, which demonstrated that farmers could increase their production 10 times if the fruits were properly harvested and processed. Furthermore, while Mr Bucyanayandi admits that some neighbours’ agri-industires have developed quicker than Uganda’s, the country’s potential remains huge.

“The whole of Nigeria is not as fertile as Uganda, and much of Rwanda is mountainous. Each country has unique features to offer but instead of competing, we complement each other. Uganda has got a lot of unexploited potential,” he says.