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Minister: Bananas Can Make You Rich

MBARARA –Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has offered expert advice to farmers that could rake in higher profit: Embrace value addition to reap more income.

The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries offered the advice on May 7 while commissioning processing facilities in Western Uganda.

This value addition program, Bamulangaki said, is supported by the Banana Livelihoods Diversification project dubbed; “Reducing Vulnerability of Banana Producing Communities to Climate Change through Banana Value Added Activities-enhancing Food Security and Employment Generation.” 

About Shs 10.2 billion was disbursed to facilitate projects in the western districts of Ntungamo, greater Mbarara, Isingiro, Sheema, Buhweju, Bushenyi, Mitooma and Rubirizi.

Nine banana processing facilities have been supported under the program and they include; four wineries, one banana juice facility and four banana drying facilities.

The farmers also got tissue-cultured plantlets (disease-free) and biogas facilities were constructed to offer clean energy and source of bio-slurry (organic fertilizer).

Minister Ssempijja said bananas are one of the most important food commodities in Uganda. They are a source of livelihood for about 72 percent of the Ugandan population.

“Bananas directly support 17 million people in rural & urban areas especially in Central, Eastern and Western Uganda,” he said.

Ssempijja advised farmers to focus on value addition rather than waiting for business people to buy their produce.

“In this region (South-western), bananas occupy 30% of the cultivated land. About 24% (934,558) of agricultural households depend on this crop directly, which means that the market is still immense,” he said.

Minister Ssempijja said the banana industry still faces low production, pests and diseases, limited value addition, poor marketing infrastructure and low quality banana products.

“You can get money from bananas if you turn it into wine, alcohol or sanitizer and posho because our people in Canada want to feed on bananas but you can’t export it when it’s not powdered so we have to add value to these bananas,” Ssempijja said.

“Given the rising population, urbanization, changes in trends of food consumption, emerging markets within the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and at the global level, it is paramount to enhance value addition of agricultural produce to take advantage of the emerging opportunities,” he added.  

Ssempijja nudged processors to strive to produce quality and safe products that can compete at a global level.

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Once quality is improved, it will strengthen the country’s efforts to increase exports as well as enhance import substitution, he said.

He advised district leaders to strengthen the agricultural extension system of delivery and continue monitoring the commissioned facilities to keep the processing line active.

“Let these facilities get raw materials for processing such that the project’s objectives do not go into limbo,” he said.

The minister commissioned Enshande Banana Juice Processing Facility in Bushenyi District and Silgard Investment Banana Winery in Mbarara City.

Silver Tumwesigye, director Silgad Investments Ltd, commended government for providing the eight year-old  factory with equipment that include; a processing facility, automated processing line, stainless fermentation tanks, testing equipment and biogas.

Tumwesigye said the factory has improved the quality of wine and production from 5,000 to 20,000 litres per month.

He said the factory employs 36 people within the community.

“About 350 farmers have provided us with raw materials such as bananas, grapes, sorghum and honey, which is the market to the agricultural products in the region” Tumwesigye explained.

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