UGANDA – Uganda has rolled out a seven-year project plan worth US$159.93 million aimed at revitalizing its declining export earnings from edible fats and oils, which have decreased by nearly 70%.

According to The East African, export earnings fell from Ush1.05 trillion (US$281.1 million) in the same period last year to Ush338.2 billion (US$90.5 million) in July 2023.

Uganda has been grappling with the production of this highly sought-after product, as global demand surged last year, further worsened by a conflict in Ukraine, one of the world’s top vegetable oil producers.

Uganda has initiated the rehabilitation of key access routes in an effort to bolster its declining edible oil exports.

The project, under the stewardship of Christopher Gumisiriza, pledges to support farmers by providing them with improved seeds and technologies that can elevate the value of oilseed and vegetable oil production.

Running until July 11, 2028, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Local Government are collaborating on a Ush597.34 billion ($159.93 million) investment to bolster the oilseeds value chain, specifically focusing on sunflowers, soybeans, simsim, and groundnuts.

The project focuses on enhancing the production and productivity of oilseeds and their by-products, particularly oil cake, by optimizing input utilization, implementing mechanization, and promoting private sector-led expansion.

It also aims to empower smallholders, enabling them to compete effectively in the sector, while enhancing access to credit within the industry.

According to official analysts, despite Uganda’s trade agreements with the European Union (EU), the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and China, local oilseed farmers continue to grapple with issues such as poor seed quality, low yields, and reduced oil content.

Agoa features favorable terms such as low tariffs and quotas for premium oilseed exports.

Analysts point out that smallholder farmers are the hardest hit due to their limited resources. Hybrid seeds that offer higher yields come with increased costs and are often imported from countries like South Africa or Kenya.

Yassin Ssendawula, the Project Coordinator from the Ministry of Local Government, stated, “NOSP will also participate in research and development efforts to create new and improved oilseed varieties in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organisation and Makerere University.”

The National Oilseeds Project (NOSP) is one of the government’s initiatives that supports oilseed farmers by promoting value addition and infrastructure development, which includes the construction of Community Access Roads.

Focus on infrastructure

In a bid to achieve the laid down strategies, the Ministry of Local Government has already embarked on the development of engineering designs for road construction and is collecting data through monitoring and evaluation processes from local communities to gain insights into market access challenges.

With an investment of Ush240 billion (US$64.3 million), this initiative encompasses 81 districts and aims to upgrade approximately 2,500 kilometers of community access roads across six hubs: West Nile, Gulu, Lira, Eastern, Mid-Western, and Karamoja.

It also aims to provide engineering design expertise to local government staff, equipping them to oversee forthcoming road projects in their respective local governments.

The nation currently satisfies less than 40 percent of the demand and is striving to enhance its output by rejuvenating oilseed projects in various districts across the nation, incorporating value addition, and upgrading transportation links to market centers.

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