Rice is an important cash and food crop in Uganda for both producing and non-producing areas for the last couple of years.
The highest production levels are evident in the districts of Iganga and Bugiri in the east, Hoima and Kabarole in the west, and Amuru, Nwoya, Apac and Lira in the north.
The consumption is mainly concentrated in both urban and peri-urban centres in areas where it is not mainly grown. This is while it is a staple food in most households in areas where it is grown.
Surge in production
A case in point is, between 2002 and 2012 when rice production grew by 77 per cent (from 120,000 to 212,000 tonnes) mainly due to a number of factors. These include favourable policies, the development of improved seeds and the high level of prices in the domestic market, which constitute a strong incentive for farmers.
Although Uganda’s production has increased significantly, it is unable to satisfy the increasing demand from urban consumers which is closely linked with rapid urbanisation and economic growth.
Since 2010, the value of Kayiso rice has increased gradually making a difference of Shs850 (30.1 per cent) per kilogramme on retail and Shs770 (30.1 per cent increase) per kilogramme on wholesale.
All these is attributed to the growing populations within the urban centres as more people enter the city centres to look for jobs hence influencing indirectly the increase in the number of small restaurants which normally buy Kayiso rice for cooking instead of Super rice or Pakistan.
Kayiso rice has fluctuated so much in the market simply because of the other alternative foods that can act as immediate substitute, for example, Pakistan, Super Tanzania, upland rice.
It is relatively stable for wholesale price and retail price with a difference of Shs1,050 and Shs550 for wholesale and retail respectively.
Super rice as the name suggests is the premium rice recognised nationally and across East Africa.
All the varieties of rice have the same trend pattern across the years indicating a possible correlation between their prices.
Like any other crop, the price of Super rice (Uganda) is affected by other rice types on the market such as Super Tanzania, which is a close competitor as well as rice from different origin that include Pakistan, IRRI-6 sweet variety type (15, 20 and 25 per cent broken), Tilda rice, Basmati.
But super rice (Uganda) beats the other types of rice on aroma and taste whereas the other types (Pakistan, for instance) are preferred for their cleanliness hence easy to cook without sorting.
The growing of upland rice have maintained a relatively stable trend in the last two years.
And the prices for upland rice are relatively similar across the other markets, apart from northern and eastern regions where prices were slightly higher.
The wholesale price ranges and on average Arua, Kitgum, Isingiro and Mbarara register the highest retail price of Shs3,000 as the lowest retail price was registered in Jinja Market at Shs2,200.
The price difference between highest and lowest price was Shs750 and Shs800 for wholesale and retail price respectively in the period of one year.
Uganda is attracting attention today as a potential rice basket for eastern Africa. Over the last few years, there has been a remarkable boom supported by good farming practices, premium market prices, and favourable policies that have stimulated large private investment in the rice sector.
The growth of Uganda’s rice production has contributed to greater food security and a reduction in rice imports. For instance, according to the government, rice imports dropped between 2005 and 2008, which helped save the country about $30m in foreign exchange earnings.
The area sown to rice nearly doubled in a single decade, that is the period, 2002—from about 80,000 hectares to 2011—about 150,000 hectares. Similarly, paddy production jumped from about 120,000 tonnes to more than 220,000 tonnes in the same period.
This is a feat that several rice producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa would like to achieve.
Yet, 10 years ago, Uganda was barely known as a rice-producing country in the region. The breakthrough occurred in the mid-2000s when the government lobbied successfully for EAC to impose a 75 per cent tariff on rice imports.
The shift in government policy further stimulated rice production in the country and motivated the private sector to invest heavily in the sector. The focus gradually shifted from increasing rice production to improving postharvest handling, value addition, and marketing.