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March 08, 2011

Uganda's maize output seen flat in 2011

Forecast poor rains have dashed Uganda's hopes for a higher maize harvest this year with production expected to be unchanged from last year, a senior government official said on March 2.
The ministry of agriculture's commissioner for crop resources, Opolot Okasai, said Uganda expects to produce 1.9 million metric tonnes this year, the same volume in 2010.

"We had initially aimed at surpassing our output last year but the meteorological department has warned that rains this year will be far lower and poorly distributed," he said.

"We are already having long dry spells... so we think at best we will be able to keep last year's production unless the weather situation significantly improves."

Uganda earned $29 million from maize exports in 2009 from $18.2 million in 2008, according to the state-run Uganda Exports Promotion Board.

Last year's production rose 5.5 percent from 2009's output of 1.8 tonnes, Okasai said, largely driven by expanding demand in the neighbouring countries and above average rainfall.

"The government is also rapidly extending the reach of farmer advisory services and distribution of high yielding seeds which boosted output per acre in 2010," he said.

Uganda consumed 1.2 tonnes of maize last year, much of it bought by the United Nation's World Food Programme (WFP) for relief operations in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The two regions are emerging from the ravages of devastating protracted conflicts and large sections of their population still rely on emergency food supplies from international humanitarian agencies.

WFP says Uganda is its second biggest source of food purchases in Africa after South Africa. Okasai said the government is pursuing efforts to expand milling capacity in the country to add value and fetch higher earnings from exports of the crop.

Reuters

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