The United Kingdom (UK) has injected about Shs577.6 billion into the country’s agriculture sector to help boost crop production and post-harvest handling.
The joint venture deal, signed between the Agriculture ministry and two UK firms Alvan Blanch Development Company, and Colas Ltd, seeks to manufacture, supply, and install multiple post-harvest processing systems across the country.
Agriculture ministry permanent secretary Pius Wakabi signed for Uganda while Mr Lars Peter Jesensen signed for of Colas Ltd.
Speaking at the ceremony, Agriculture minister Vincent Ssempijja commended the collaboration, saying it will supplement already-initiated government programmes to help the private sector increase investment in agriculture processing and value addition.
“This partnership is to improve agricultural produce through installation of value addition facilities by establishing collection centres for priority commodities by buying and installing 112 batch drying, cleaning and grading systems of grains, and cereals across the country,” Mr Ssempijja said.
On his part, British High Commissioner Peter West said the partnership will help Ugandan farmers improve their productivity and post-harvest handling levels to enable them meet international market standards.
He said the UK government had previously given about Shs1.1 trillion for the construction of Kabale airport to help quicken exportation of agricultural produce.
In the next financial year, the ministry through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme plans to commit Shs55 billion to set up grain, fruit and feeds processing plants in the districts of Yumbe, Kapeeka, Nwoya, and Kamwenge.
“The objectives of this partnership is to improve values of agricultural produce through installation of value addition facilities for example establishing collection centres for priority commodities by buying and installing 112 batch drying, cleaning and grading systems of grains, cereals across the country,” Mr Ssempijja said.
He said the ministry is implementing the five-year Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (2015/2016- 2019-2020), which aims at contributing towards the overall development goal of the country attaining a middle income status by 2020.
This plan aims to improve access to agricultural markets and value addition for the 12 priority commodities, including maize, beans, rice, tea, coffee, and bananas, plus four other strategic commodities, namely oil palm, oil seeds, cocoa, and cotton.
The minister said prices of commodities such as maize, and coffee have been down and the country’s farmers couldn’t compete for international market because of poor quality products produced.
“There’s need to increase grain processing capacity while improving post-harvest handling and management to match the crop production levels in the country, which will increase farmers access to regional and international markets,” Mr Ssempijja said.