The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga commissioned the first-ever irish potato tissue culture laboratory built by Agro-Genetic Technologies (AGT Laboratories) to boost growth of the crop in east and central Africa.
Located in Namawojjolo along the Kampala-Jinja highway, the state-of-the-art lab is targeting the regions of Kigezi and Sebei, and Zombo district in West Nile, for distribution of the Irish potato plantlets.
According to Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), the lab will also supply to neighbouring countries, as with its sister lab in Masaka, they will produce up to 10 million tissue culture plants per annum, depending on the type of crop.
The laboratories use biotechnology through tissue culture for micro propagation (multiplication) of different crops like irish potato, coffee, banana, pineapple, and other crops.
Started 20 years ago, AGT was the first Ugandan tissue culture initiative to scale up and commercialize, transforming into the biggest tissue culture laboratory in east and central Africa.
It currently supplies to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Sudan.
The company has also set up 500 demonstration plots throughout Uganda in order to transfer best agronomic practices to farmers, free of charge.
At the launch, the company’s chief executive Erostus Nsubuga appealed to the government to create an enabling environment for private sector growth, including biotechnology development.
He reasoned that Government should invest in research which can then be used and commercialized by the private sector.
Nsubuga said development of biotechnology would translate into new processes, products, jobs, increase revenues and boost economic growth. He called on MPs to involve the private sector in formulation of laws and regulations, adding that it was high time the biotechnology bill, in the works for 10 years, was passed into law.
According to the speaker, there’s a need to put in place a good regulatory framework for biotechnology development.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, said all efforts are being made to harmonize issues in the biotechnology bill to make it a good law for everyone.
The Chairman of Technical Working Group on Agriculture under the Presidential Investors’ Round Table (PIRT), Mahmood Hudda, said the major constraint for farmers in Uganda is that they are not capable of competing with their counterparts in the region.
He said other countries in the region have already legislated on biotechnology and Uganda is already importing their products manufactured using biotechnology.
Hudda said through biotechnology, Ugandan farmers will be able to leverage advantages like productivity, yields and quality of their produce. He appealed to the Government and Parliament to expedite passing of the biotechnology bill, arguing that it will boost Uganda’s agricultural sector.