Agriculture is steadily gaining prominence as a key investment sector in Uganda. Initially left for the despised peasantry in the rural areas, the fast growing urbanisation trend is demanding that more food be availed in the right form at the right time and with the right quality.
This has led to a growth in the interest expressed in value addition. For the uninitiated, Value Addition simply implies the transformation of a product from its original state to a more valuable state. Take the example of Milk being transformed to Cheese, Irish Potatoes transformed into Crisps, Maize transformed into flour among others.
With the increasing urbanisation, it implies a growing non agricultural workforce that still relies on feeding off agricultural produce. Enterprising individuals have now taken advantage of the supply gap to package food products appropriately for this elite market.
In 2009 when I first ventured into this value addition space with my wife, we faced a lot of hurdles and they were largely rotating around the processing of the produce. Not only was it lack of appropriate knowledge but also the affordability of the machinery required.
This took us on a longer than necessary learning curve to achieve our dream. While there existed a Government supported incubation facility, it just did not suit us due to the many hurdles it erected that simply pushed away the small producers like us.
We however soldiered on through a brutal learning and investment process to eventually get to our current stable operations.
However, recently I picked interest in establishing what an organisation whose name had been on my radar for a long time was all about. That organisation is CURAD. The Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Ltd (CURAD) that I learnt is an innovative autonomous agribusiness incubator established by Makerere University, National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) and National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).
A visit to the CURAD facility at Namanve Industrial area was very revelational. I stumbled across a facility that I can authoritatively state that it is a facility that offloads an agribusiness of the initial equipment and technical hurdles associated with processing and enables a business to focus on acquisition of raw material as well as market access and trade.
Food processing to acceptable standards is not a walk into the park for any business. It involves lots of investment in machinery, human labour and compliance requirements. However, if that headache is removed from an entrepreneur and they are left to focus on raw material acquisition and market access, there is likely to be a lot of output registered by any Small and Medium business enterprise.
Dealing with them is as simple as delivering your raw material, say in this case irish potatoes. They get into the facility, are cleaned (thoroughly), sliced by machines, taken through a series of machine powered steps ending up with the ready to pack crisps that eventually go through an automated packing machine. Isn’t this cool?
They have a vast array of machinery from Slicers, cleaners, drier, cold storage, vacuum sealers, packaging among many others. These guys are the real deal.
All one needs to do is register with the facility and then pay a fee based on the kind of work you expect them to do for you on a per consignment basis.
Some of the machinery at the facility is as seen in the slideshow below.
With such a facility in existence, it gives one no reason not to pursue their Agribusiness dream especially one that entails Value Addition. If you have been intrigued by this information, you can always check out CURAD Online for further details.
A visit to their facility is one you will never live to regret.
Agribusiness & Technology Consultant