In Summary

The issue: WFP picks Uganda
Our view: We applaud efforts, such as this of WFP, to make farmers live a better life in a country that seeks to transform from a peasant to a modern prosperous society in the next 30 years but continues to do little about it!

The news reported by this newspaper yesterday that the World Food Programme (WFP) has elevated Uganda to a global procurement hub for grains could never have come at a better time.

According to Mr Elkhidir Daloum, the WFP country director, Uganda has capacity to supply grain to the entire East African region and that the global food relief agency has constructed more than 70 silos across the country for post-harvest management.

This is good news, especially to grain farmers in parts of Teso, Sebei, Bugisu and Busoga sub-regions, among others, who are now stuck with their produce from last year’s and this year’s harvest because of the erratic farm gate prices occasioned by volatility in the market.

Farmers across the country are counting losses after maize prices dipped, especially after the harvest last month. A kilogramme of maize now goes for between Shs200 and Shs300 down from about Shs800 a year ago.

In Teso sub-region, for example, Mr John Sitati Cherot, a father of six in Agule village, Pingire Sub-county, Serere District, told this newspaper early this month that the net production costs outstrip the returns by far.

“I cultivated six acres of maize, each garden cost me Shs100,000 for hybrid seeds, weeding per acre was Shs350,000, now with each kilogramme going for Shs200-Shs300, I cannot raise Shs3m, which I invested yet we have to take care of children and other basics,” he lamented.

The agricultural sector employs about 75 per cent of the population and posts more than 30 per cent of to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, yet the government still pays little attention to it in terms of budget allocation. For instance, in the 2018/19 National Budget, although there was an increment to about Shs892b, up from Shs865b the previous year, more than Shs270b of this amount will be used for wage and non-wage recurrent expenditure.

Now that WFP have said they will continue to buy grain for as long as Uganda can produce enough, it is a huge boost and a call to work even harder. Also, the announcement that the food relief agency will be buying from organised farmers’ groups with large quantities of produce, should ring a loud bell to the local producers.

They should then retreat and borrow the cooperative society model to eliminate exploitation by middlemen, meet the supply requirements, add value to their produce and have a better purchasing power.

We applaud efforts, such as this of WFP, to make farmers live a better life in a country that seeks to transform from a peasant to a modern prosperous society in the next 30 years but continues to do little about it!