The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has pledged to harness opportunities for value addition along the Matooke (banana) value-chain, as government looks to mechanization and modernisation of agriculture in order to boost the sector’s profitability.
Speaking to theCooperator, Hon. Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja said government, through the Presidential Initiative for Banana Industry Development (PIBID) in Nyaruzinga – Bushenyi District, intends to stem systemic challenges in production, processing and sale of matooke products.
The minister argues that processing matooke into different products would address the largely subsistence nature of agricultural production and help address the current nationwide fall in banana prices.
“At PIBID, fresh Bananas can be processed into Tooke flour used for instant porridge, baking flour and making biscuits, cakes and cookies. Farmers are encouraged to work hand in hand with PIBID management to add value to their bananas and avoid losses,” Ssempijja said.
The minister also revealed that MAAIF, in collaboration with the United Nation’s Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), is currently implementing the Banana Livelihood and Diversification project in eight Districts within Ankole sub-region, where they are supporting cottage level banana processing activities.
Through the project, Ssempijja says, small-scale Banana processing facilities have been established, including Banana Beverages Ltd in Sheema District; Kiaga Uganda Ltd and Forest Fruit Foods Ltd in Bushenyi; St. Peters Rock Hills in Isingiro and Silgard Investments Ltd in Mbarara..
He said other banana processors turning matooke into juices, wines and snacks are in Ishaka, Bushenyi, Kampala and Mukono Districts.
“We welcome other investors in Banana value addition. I appeal to farmers and investors, to explore banana value addition activities,” Ssempijja said.
“Adding value to various crops will help to mitigate falling prices, create more jobs, increase incomes, enhance import substitution and overall, reduce poverty through stimulated agricultural production and increased profitability,” Sempijja added.
He also advised farmers to take full advantage of necessary technical advice from Agriculture Officers. This Financial Year, government allocated Shs 300bn to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS).
Fall in prices
Amidst the myriad challenges presented by COVID-19, food vendors in Kampala are grappling with low demand, associated with lost incomes amongst the population during lockdown.
Yiga Willy, a Matooke vender at Nakasero market says that most of their customers were traders in arcades, Owino market, school operators and people organizing public functions, all of which were shut down by government in order to contain the pandemic.
He says that there is an oversupply of Matooke at present, both in the villages and market and, as a result, the prices of the commodity have gone down.
“A big bunch of banana that previously went for Shs 30,000 now goes for Shs 15,000, but because Matooke is perishable, if it spends many days here without seeing buyers, we either sell them cheaply or risk throwing them away,” Yiga explains.
Emmanuel Ssekyonda, a food trader in Kisenyi market says that any advantages traders could get from the prevailing low prices of Matooke at farmgate are cancelled by the transport costs which, he says, are currently too high.
“The cost of transport affects any profits we could make from Matooke trade,” he says.
Explore international markets
In his latest COVID-19 national address, President Museveni encouraged farmers and food traders, in addition to value addition, to explore the regional and international markets, as he argues that demand for Matooke is still high globally.
“We are producing a lot of Bananas, prices have gone down. People are worried where to send their produce, I say we work towards regional integration to solve the problem of market; that is where our future is, Museveni stated.