By Kampala Post Reporter
President Yoweri Museveni has assured his Zimbabwe counterpart, Emerson Mnangagwa, that Uganda has the capacity to export maize grains worth 650,000 tons to Zimbabwe per year.
"Since the colonial time, Ugandans had been misguided that the only cash crops were coffee, tea, tobacco and cotton. When the NRM came to power in 1986, the government has been sensitizing the people that all crops are cash crops from which a farmer can earn an income. Ugandans have awakened in the agriculture sector to produce more especially maize in two seasons of rain annually,” he said.
The President made the remarks on Saturday during a meeting with a visiting Zimbabwe delegation led by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Air Marshall Perence Shiri, at State House, Entebbe.
"Uganda today produces five million tons of maize and only one million is being consumed within the country. Go and tell President Mnangagwa that Uganda is going to supply maize grains to Zimbabwe, other logistic issues that include transport, production costs, global market competition, among others notwithstanding,” the President added.
Mr. Museveni told his guests that the market of 42 million people in Uganda is not enough even when the regional East African market is added. He, therefore, stressed that an addition of more markets in Africa is a crucial element for local agricultural produce.
“The maize that is grown in Uganda is of high quality and typically organic because it is not produced under the application of chemicals,” he said. He observed that there is need for government to put a subsidy for a year or two on maize export to be able to win global competition after learning that maize Is to be exported to Zimbabwe at between US$370 and US$380 per ton when other countries such as Mexico exports at US$340 and Ukraine at US$225 per ton.
Mr. Museveni advised that to minimize transport costs from Uganda to Mombasa Port, dedicated railway wagons should be used to transport the maize instead of using road transport as all the stakeholders continue to discussions of other related logistics to ensure a sustainable export of maize to Zimbabwe. Minister Perrance Shiri, who conveyed a special message from President Mnangagwa to Museveni, said that his delegation is in Uganda to concretize on the two leaders’ discussions regarding maize export to Zimbabwe.
"The delegation is here under the directive of President Mnangagwa about maize importation from Uganda following the recent talks at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Uganda has enough and good quality maize,” Minister Shiri said.
Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister, Vincent Sempijja, reported that the Zimbabwe delegation has been in the country for over a week to study in detail maize production in Uganda. He added the delegation has visited maize processing factories in Nalukolongo and in Busega in Kampala and maize farms in Kiryandongo District in Bunyoro Sub-Region where they have appreciated the maize quality.
One of the prominent maize producers in Uganda who is a member of the Grain Council, Ben Puinz of Agilis Partners, advocated for more extensive farmers to be involved more in maize growing and production as market stimulus given the favourable climatic conditions Uganda has.
The meeting was among others attended by Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister, Vincent Ssempijja, Secretary to Finance, Mr. Keith Muhakanizi, local maize processors and prominent maize producers in Uganda.