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November 24, 2008

Ugandan food processors struggle to get local raw materials

Get serious with agro-processing Friday, 21st November, 2008 E-mail article Print article By Paul Busharizi

Hasmukh Dawda, is the chairman and founder of Britania Allied Industries Ltd in Uganda. His company is responsible for the Splash juices, Top-Up tomato sauce, Sunsip juice, Munchies biscuits and a host of other confectionaries.

Dawda, whose most popular line of juice is the Mango Splash, is looking to help jump-start mango growing in Uganda so he can stop importing mango pulp from India. His company imports about 300 tonnes a year of pulp with which the factory produces about 20,000 packets of mango juice daily.

“The local mangoes do not produce the kind of juice we are looking for, so we want to help introduce the Alphonso strain of mangoes so that we cannot only produce for the local market but can export the pulp,” Dawda says.

The current project aims at importing at least 200,000 Alphonso seedlings from India.
Each seedling will have landed at a cost of $13 for a total cost of about $2.5m. Dawda wants the Government to help offset this cost and Dawda will use his network to distribute the seedlings to farmers. They are still waiting for a government response.

But mango is not the only product where Dawda’s company has found local suppliers lacking – tomatoes, passion fruits, pineapples, wheat and chillies, which he has to source mostly from foreign markets. “When the farmers come we take everything, we do not turn away anybody who has the quality we require.

“In fact, we dream of the day when there will be too much supply that we can turn away farmers, but going by current trends that is not going to happen in a few years,” said Britania’s K. Sridharan, the marketing manager.

In Masaka, Multiline International Ltd, has started canning millet porridge, Obushera. The company, which started commercial operations earlier this year, is fighting to meet demand in spite of its 12,000 can-a-day capacity.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development has warned that it will be unable to meet the demand for its brand of matooke flour because farmers are not producing enough. They have capacity to produce five tonnes of tooke daily and this would require 25 tonnes of raw banana; a hard ask for our subsistence farmers.

The Sameer Agricultural Livestock Ltd who two years ago took over the running of the Dairy Corporation, have more than doubled milk collections from farmers in the period, showing that it’s not the lack of application by farmers but more deeply ingrained structural issues that are stymieing the growth of agro-processing in Uganda.

The Global/GAVI Fund, Temangalo saga and any other scandals that have captured the public imagination, pale in comparison to the wasted potential of our agricultural sector to lift thousands of rural households out of poverty.

The responsibility for this failure can be put squarely at the Government’s step. The development of the agricultural sector to first satisfy local and then export demand, will require input from all government institutions not only the ministry of agriculture.

Uganda stumbles...there is no discernible strategy – beyond wish lists, either by the Government or the agriculture ministry on how to boost the sector. And of course, without strategy, you will have gaps in your human resource and operations.

But this is not rocket science and we need not reinvent the wheel, countries around the world have raised industries where there were none before and attained world-class standards – South Korea’s shipping industry, Singapore’s financial sector, India’s software industry, South Africa’s wine industry and Brazil’s aeronautical industry.

... for our nascent matooke agro-processing, the strategy should look to increase banana production, promote research into the growing and processing of bananas, help forge a marketing strategy and encourage supporting industries in marketing and distribution. Uganda is not poor for lack of resources or laziness but for lack of strategic planning.

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