Tag Archives: produce

WFP – Promote Local Ugandan Producers

For once I realise that when Ugandan Public officials choose to use logic to reason out issues, they can be spot on. On Thursday 22nd April 2021, the Honourable Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Engineer Hillary Onek without mincing words and in response to the United Nations Resident Coordinator stated that, “I don’t agree that our farmers toil and suffer to get market for their produce, and then you are telling me the quality. Which quality has failed? All of you (UN officials) are eating Ugandan food you buy from the market here. Why are you thinking of quality now? I don’t agree with that because that is a way of protecting [food market for] the foreign [people] in America and other places. You want money to remain there. We also want market for our food and we are very strong on that.”

There has been a sense of taking Uganda for granted, a country known to be very refugee friendly. You keep hearing of food supplies being imported from other countries and the story peddled by agencies like the World Food Programme is the lack of quality. While they may have a point, it is a feeble one as effectively responded to by the Minister.

If these entities are genuinely interested in empowering Uganda to handle these refugees, is it better for them to continue sourcing food expensively from foreign suppliers or empowering local value chains to ensure that they get the quality and quantity they need? That song of poor quality is a ruse and has been sung for long.

In June 2019, a story broke out of food poisoning in Karamoja and the very WFP was accused. Four people died in the process while hundreds got affected. The culprit was a fortified porridge blend called Super Cereal supplied by a Turkish firm, the Demirpolat Group. This is allegedly a big multinational firm according to online sources having numerous contracts to supply the UN with food. How could it supply poisonous food if indeed it meets the standards that the UN Resident director was pointing out?

It is intriguing to note that a subsequent investigation launched into the matter yielded inconclusive results. Really? People die after eating the food and you fail to trace the fault in the food? It is time for us to stop stomaching such crappy talk aimed at lining the pockets of international capitalists when our local farmers are failing to get adequate market for their produce.

If quality is an issue, I know for a fact that improving quality of foods produced shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to solve. The factors affecting it are known and it’s a matter of just pulling a few strings and all will fall in place. I have engaged in similar quality upgrade of the rice value chain and seen results out of the small efforts we undertake. How much more would happen if WFP with its millions of dollars undertook that initiative?

What further hurts is going to Turkey to get fortified porridge when in Uganda we have numerous companies that make very good fortified foods. One of them exports high grade fortified posho to Khartoum and WFP keeps a blind eye over that? Someone somewhere is not being genuine and wants to keep Ugandans poor while praising them for being hospitable. Does mere hospitability bring food on our tables?

I am glad within a day of the Minister’s pronouncement, the WFP came up and agreed to purchase food from local suppliers.

“We have made affirmative action to buy (relief food directly) from Uganda for national and regional intervention of WFP. We already started purchasing maize for school feeding programme in Karamoja from local farmers such as a group of female farmers in Kaabong District,” Mr El Khidir Daloum (WFP Country Director) said.

“But they (farmers and traders) need to observe quality. We are open to provide technical support and train people on post-harvest handling,” he further added.

As a country, I hope the Minister’s stand ends up rewarding the numerous Cooperative Societies, Small and Medium Enterprises as well as Commercial farmers involved in Agribusiness. There is a fear lurking that this directive might be a veiled effort to further reward those that were responsible for providing poor quality food supplies for distribution during the Covid-19 Lockdown period. For once Honourable Minister Onek, surprise us further by ensuring equitable access to these WFP opportunities.

James Wire

Agribusiness Consultant

Twitter – @wirejames

Email – lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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HOW TO – Start an Agricultural Produce Business

Uganda is richly endowed with arable land that has promoted agriculture over the centuries. There are numerous crops that naturally grow without the need for complex agricultural practices. As a result, so much trade is going on internally as well as export led that focuses on produce.

The growing urbanisation has led to increased demand of various foods that were initially never regarded as commercial crops. Maize, Rice, Beans are examples of produce that has traditionally been commercial. However, over the past decade, we have seen millet, cassava, sorghum, simsim, soya beans among others take up representation on the commercial landscape of agricultural foods.

The beauty of trading in produce is that it doesn’t have high entry barriers as you will note in this article. It is one of those businesses that you can start in a very basic way by simply buying and selling the produce at a markup or buying, processing and selling at an even bigger markup.

How can one get into this business?

Identify the produce for trade: Due to the diversity of foods consumed, the opportunity for trade is also very broad. You need to identify which particular produce you can best deal in. This identification process can be guided by factors like;

  • Your village roots – Most of us have villages of origin aside from our urban dwelling places. These villages are largely agricultural oriented and you cant fail to find a common crop planted over there. Where I come from, rice is the most prominent commercial produce and hence it is easier for me to trade in rice as opposed to say simsim .

  • Access to Supplies – Trading usually requires that you have some sort of steady supply of produce. You need to know which areas of the country can supply you what you need. The Bunyoro sub-region for example is reknowned for Maize and Cassava production. The Lango sub-region is known for sunflower and sim sim growing. The Mbarara axis towards Bushenyi is regarded as a Banana zone.

  • Ease of Handling – How easy is it to handle the produce till it gets to the consumer? Perishable produce always puts you on tension to ensure that it is sold very fast while non perishable produce gives you room to approach the market at your convenience. As a starter, I advise that you avoid perishable produce unless you are very certain of the market you’re dealing with.

Familiarise yourself with the market dynamics: Business is never as obvious as it seems when calculating returns. Its practicalities demand that one is knowledgeable about the trade dynamics involved. Price fluctuation is one of most common issues to deal with. Just like the stock exchange, in a matter of hours, maize prices could drop by UGX 100/ per kilo and in case you had stocked after purchasing at a higher price, it becomes obvious that you stand to lose UGX 100,000/ per tonne sold.

Another challenge is posed by the multitudes of unscrupulous traders who will always give the impression that your produce is of poor quality hence pushing you to settle for a low price.

You also need to know the seasons of the year and how they affect both supply and demand. This can help you determine when to stock and store or quickly offload your stock.

Set up a Supply Chain: Establishing the purchase network is fundamental. There are options at your disposal like; buying directly from the farmers, buying from local traders in the village and buying from urban wholesale traders. Each of these options has its pros and cons. As an example, while it might be much cheaper to buy directly from the farmers, the effort placed in aggregating the small amounts of produce from individual farmers could easily erode the perceived savings in price.

Establish your market: Always avoid venturing into business without knowledge of whom you want your customer to be. Curve out a good picture of the target customer. Is it schools and various institutions that require bulk supplies? Could it be shop or supermarket retailers? Is it the home consumer?

Clarity on the target market will guide you on other factors like packaging, distribution and processing requirements. Try to ensure that you steer clear of credit supplies until a time when you believe the relationships with customers are good enough to facilitate such a judgement.

Storage: This is very crucial at various stages of the supply chain. When aggregating produce purchased upcountry, a storage point is needed. Upon arrival in the urban areas, another storage location is crucial to avoid turning you into a desperate seller as well as allow accumulation of stock for large scale supplies. Ensure that this storage space is free of pests since they can significantly erode your margins if left unattended to.


A village Rice Store

Processing: Some traders choose to sell produce as is while others opt for processing. Kisenyi, a slummy business hub found in Kampala City is a good example of a location where produce is processed prior to sale. Maize is turned into its powder form (posho), same with millet, sorghum, Soya and others.

Processing has been made so easy that within the same milling premises, one can find packaging bags, bag sewing machines as well as print services to brand the bags.

Marketing: You need to build up some noise about your products/produce. This should help you get pre-orders thereby reducing on uncertainties. Besides, the more the marketing, the more the orders which gives you an opportunity to operate at higher economies of scale. Social media is such a low cost and good marketing tool lately especially when dealing with the end consumer. You might want to consider using it.

With these few tips, start working your way towards your dream business today.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant

Blog: wirejames.com

Twitter: @wirejames

Email: lunghabo (at) gmail (dot) com

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