By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The Agriculture Credit Facility (ACF) in the last five years supported over 600 projects, the agriculture minister, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja revealed during Manifesto Week 2020.
According to the minister, over Sh142.1b was committed through Bank of Uganda and supported 631 projects along the agriculture value chain.
The Scheme’s operations started in October 2009, with the aim of facilitating the provision of medium and long term financing to projects engaged in Agriculture and Agro processing, focusing mainly on commercialization and value addition.
Loans under the ACF are disbursed to farmers and agro-processors through the Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) at more favorable terms than are usually available under conventional loans.
It also partnered with some micro-finance institutions to reach out to more farmers and also, work with the insurance sector to design measures that ease insurance in agriculture in order to increase agriculture financing and sensitize farmers on this undertaking.
“We are also implementing the Insurance Agriculture Scheme (UAIS) through the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, under a Public Private Partnership between the Government of Uganda and the Private sector who are the Insurance companies.
He said that about Sh10b has so far been released as a subsidy for mainly small-scale farmers to promote their interest in the agriculture risk management tool.
The funds are for sensitization and awareness on insurance basics, premium subsidy, data support and fostering lending to the agriculture sector by Financial Institutions, “said the Agricultural Minister David Ssempijja.
This according to Ssempijja, has increased the uptake of agriculture insurance from 3000 beneficiaries to 65,000 beneficiaries.
Regarding textile development, MAAIF has continued to promote cotton growing in order to sustain the country’s textile industries and export of yarn.
This was done through procurement and distribution of 8,490 Mt of cotton seed to farmers in over 60 districts.
“The production of cotton volume in 2019/20 was 173,457 which contributed over Sh138b to household incomes compared to 189,000 lint bales produced in 2015/16 which contributed over Sh181b to household incomes.
Ssempijja added that since 2015, a total of 33,752 bales of lint have been procured for the two textile manufacturers who together employ a total of 3,470 people.
According to the sector performance report, cotton value addition is increasing, with six cotton wool manufacturing firms fully operational and producing absorbent surgical cotton wool and Mama Kits from locally grown cotton.
“These directly employ about 300 people and produce over 700 Mt of surgical cotton wool annually. In addition, nine oil mills have been established and produce edible oil, cotton seed cake and soap stock from cotton seed.
These directly employ a total of about 600 people and produce a combined total of over 2,000 Mt of edible oil and approximately 12,000 Mt of cotton seed cake used in animal feeds annually, “he said.
As a result, the Ministry has constructed a modern cotton planting seed processing plant in Pajule, Pader District which is currently employing over 100 people with a total seed processing capacity of 2,500 Mt.
With support from the India/Africa Cotton Technical Assistance Program (TAP) at the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) in Serere, ABio-pesticide laboratory was established to enhance testing and preparation of Bio-pesticides and Bio-fertilizers.
“The lab also runs activities on soil testing to facilitate recommendation of appropriate fertilizers, “said Sempijja
In order to ensure self-sufficiency in rice production, MAAIF through its research arm, National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) released and promoted 14 Upland rice early maturing and drought tolerant varieties which are resistant to rice yellow mottle. NARO has also availed 10 MT of foundation seed to seed multipliers.
Regarding cassava production, and establishment of factories for value-addition by Investors, Ssempijja said deliberate efforts involving development of disease resistant varieties, demonstrations and distribution of planting materials to farmers was made.
According to Ssempijja, a diagnosis system for pests and diseases, provision of support for marketing and establishment of adequate storage facilities for fresh cassava roots and support for cassava farmers and SMEs to engage in processing of quality flour and chips, as well as agribusiness enterprises were made.
“To ensure sustainable supply of disease free cuttings, twelve acres of cassava seed multiplication site have been maintained by National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI),” he said.
In an effort to commercialize cassava production, the government through NAADS is supporting an Integrated Cassava Industry Development Project for Northern Uganda (ICIDP).
In the fishing sector, Ssempijja said that MAAIF created a regulatory body responsible for policing the lakes against illegal fishing in order to save fish for fish factories and also ensure efficient management of Fisheries.
“The government approved the new Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy which is aimed at guiding sustainable fishing activities on the major water bodies and also guide public and private investments in aquaculture, “he said.
The Fisheries Protection Unit, continues to enforce sustainable fisheries rules and regulations along the major water bodies and as a result, the country has started realizing an increase in income from fish exports which has increased from $121m in 2016 to $ 227m in 2019/20.This accordingly reflects an increase of 87%.
In order to promote export of beef and other livestock products such as poultry and pork, the government has come up with strategies to eliminate common livestock diseases like foot-and-mouth disease.
This has been done through an integrated approach where NARO has developed two anti-tick vaccines to effectively control blue ear ticks and two bio-acaricide formulations to manage the emerging challenge of tick resistance to available acaricide.
Other strategies undertaken include drugs for control of worms in ruminants, a national tick distribution map to guide tick control programs and initiatives, African Swine Fever (AFS) diagnostic kit prototype, A green protein feed Supplement for both poultry and fish feeds among others.
As much as the agriculture sector priorities in the medium term will follow the agro-industrialization programme agenda as enshrined in NDPIII, de-risking agricultural enterprises at all levels of the value chain and supporting the creation of adequate markets for the various priority enterprises is still a challenge.
Ssempija observed the need to avoid over dependence on nature for production despite climate changes.