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Ugandan farmers blame Gov’t on food export bans

A Ugandan Maize Farmer dries maize corn before processing for selling (File Photo)

UGANDA MAIZE BAN: Ugandan maize farmers have blamed the government for the current trade standoff between Uganda and the export markets, over alleged poor quality. 

The farmers say that the government has either mishandled or neglected its mandate in the value chain, which has seen the food production, processing and marketing activities rely entirely on the abilities of the farmers. The farmers say that the government has failed to protect them from fake inputs and low prices, yet they are expected to meet the standards.

This follows the recent ban by Kenya on maize imports from Uganda, saying the products were full of aflatoxins, a poisonous substance that is born out of the moulding of maize grain especially during storage.  Aflatoxins can also affect the crop right from germination if the seed used is already infected or, if the toxins were already in the soil. Although Kenya later lifted the ban, it gave stringent conditions regarding the standards. 

George Kirabira Kamya, a traditional commercial farmer in Sembwa village, Nakaseke Sub-county, says the lifting of the ban might not mean much unless the government goes back to play its role regarding standards, right from the farm. 

He said that farmers, even in areas where the government has an interest in seeing the maize sector grow, the programs have been mishandled. He cites Masindi district where the government focused so as to access the export markets, as well as the World Food Program to supply the maize, without telling the farmers the long term importance of quality.

Kirabira, who participated in the formulation of the Nakaseke Maize Standards Ordinance in 2015, says the lack of proper regulation has resulted in the exploitation of farmers, who earn the least from the value of the crop, while the final products, including the flour and the seed for planting, are sold to the farmers at very high prices.   

Lawyer David Kabanda warns that the losses arising from export bans could attract legal suits because it is the role of the government to ensure that what is put in the market, whether local or export is protected by good standards at home. He says despite legislations like the Plant Health Act, the Agriculture Chemicals Control Act 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture has neglected most of the regulations which would help the sector to avoid issues like rejection of the products.

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Kabanda, also the Executive Director of The Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights, says these laws have adequate regulations that would deal with all issues to do with trade and standards.

The ban on Uganda Uganda’s maize had come just as the country and Kenya unresolved issues regarding the blocking of Uganda’s milk, sugar and sugarcane, while similar circumstances have also been met by exports to Tanzania. Ugandan exporters are also yet to get a solution to the blocked Rwanda-Uganda border, two years since. 

Over the last few years, Kenya and Tanzania have also involved themselves in cross-border trade disputes, as well as flight bans between them. 

SEATINI Uganda’s Trade Policy Analyst Africa Kiiza says the problems within the EAC will continue until there is a comprehensive framework that will enable the partner states to willingly surrender part of their sovereign powers to the EAC Secretariat. He says that there should also be an independent trade dispute resolution mechanism away from the East African Court of Justice, which he says has a lot of functions, making it inappropriate.

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