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September 30, 2010

Uganda's 2010 maize output seen up 11 percent over earlier estimates

Uganda's 2010 maize crop is expected to expand by 11 percent due to favourable weather and widening use of high-yielding seeds, a top government official said.

Although traditionally a peripheral commodity in Uganda, over the last few years maize production has soared and demand for the cereal leapt from the east African country's neighbours of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

Opolot Okasai, commissioner for crop resources in the ministry of agriculture said Uganda would produce an estimated 2 million tonnes of maize this year, up from last year's 1.8 million tonnes.

Uganda's domestic corn consumption stands at an estimated 1.1 million tonnes, with the rest exported via informal cross border trade to neighbouring markets.

"We distributed enormous amounts of good quality high-yielding seeds last year and fortunately weather was  good and the result was the bumper harvest that we saw," he said. "A significant portion of those seeds that we distributed were carried over and planted this year and since January the weather so far has been encouraging and these two factors will certainly push us to 2 million metric tonnes."

In 2009, Uganda experienced a scorching drought midyear that significantly cut back output in most other crops including coffee for which the country is Africa's largest exporter. Rains were plentiful though in the latter part of the year when much of the maize crop is produced.

Uganda recorded its best ever maize harvest in 2009, but farmers' elation over their rich harvest was tempered by a steep drop in prices as traders flooded the market with supplies.

Okasai said the low prices were unlikely to cool farmer enthusiasm this year because of growing regional markets. "The government is also focusing on improving post-harvest handling and processing both of which should improve price stability," he said.

Demand for Uganda's maize has been rising particularly in South Sudan and eastern Congo, two regions that are currently recovering from devastating conflicts and where the population is still unable to cultivate their own food on account of lingering insecurity.


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