Ensuring quality standards: Regulators want grain farmers to have modern storage facilities

MUBENDE, September 20, 2023 – Farmers have been urged to work in groups and cooperatives and establish modern storage facilities as a measure to close quality gaps that have affected Uganda’s grain exports in recent times.

In 2018 Kenya rejected over 600,000 tonnes of maize from Uganda after it was suspected to contain aflatoxins, causing huge losses to grain exporters and several players across the value chain. The same happened mid-this year as South Sudan rejected to let in Uganda’s maize.

The call for farmers to have modern storage facilities comes at a time when Uganda’s grain market size is expected to grow from US$ 4.27 billion in 2023 to US$ 5.22bln, reports Mordor Intelligence, a global research company.

Grains grown in Uganda include maize, millet, sorghum, rice, and wheat. They play a prominent role in increasing the income of smallholder farmers and the national economy. The growing demand for grains increased regional exports to East Africa, and favorable government policies supporting grain production are some factors driving the market growth.

“Poor storage is one of the reasons why despite Uganda being a big grain producer, grain earnings remain low and its farmers continue to swim in poverty,” said Ivan Asiimwe, a board member of the Uganda Warehouse Receipt System Authority [UWRSA], the body that regulates and promotes the warehouse receipt system through partnership with other stakeholders.

Under the Warehouse Receipt System, farmers are able to store their produce in a gazetted warehouse where they are issued with receipts that they can present to banks as collateral but also the farmers can use the receipts to get market for their produce.

Asiimwe stressed the need to support private warehouse operators who provide storage facilities to grassroots farmers who cannot afford decent storage facilities and continue to suffer losses arising out of poor storage of their produce.

“These [storage facilities] can help farmers to maintain the quality of their produce until the market is found,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries [MAAIF] Ugandan farmers lose above 30 percent of their produce due to poor post-harvest handling, which limits their chances to earn more income.

Tadeo Nsubuga, another board member of the UWRSA highlighted the importance of such storage facilities in helping farmers aggregate their produce, especially maize. He said storage facilities ensure the quality standards demanded by the market.

Nsubuga said there is a need to improve the entire grain value chain, where the use of pesticides is carefully applied, which calls for training of the grain handlers.

Nsubuga and other officials made the remark recently while touring Aponye Warehouse Facility in Mubende district. The warehouse which has a licence to handle grain storage was built by Aponye Limited, a company owned by the late businessman Apollo Nyegamehe, aka Aponye.

Deborah Kyarasiime, the managing director of the UWRSA said the visit was meant to asses the readiness of the grain warehousing facility to support the farmers in the wider Mubende region which is one of the grain-growing hubs in the country.

UWRSA Managing Director, Deborah Kyarasiime (Courtesy photo).

“As regulators, we are interested in promoting the development of infrastructure that supports better agricultural commodity storage, value addition, and structured commodities trading system,” she said.

“This is also in line with government’s goal of encouraging private warehouse operators to support its efforts of improving post-harvest handling, especially in the grains sector,” she said.

The UWRSA team delivered post-harvest handling supportive items including tarpaulins and fumigation tools to the warehouse operators.

The Warehouse Receipt System was established in Uganda in 2006 by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives. It is governed and regulated through the Warehouse Receipt System Act of 2006.

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