Ugandan exporters of the African Bird’s eye chilli are counting loses after international prices dropped following a bumper harvest in Malawi, the leading producer.
African Bird’s eye chilli (Capsium frutescens) is produced largely in Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Uganda which is currently trading at Shs7,647 ($3.1) down from Shs11,348 ($4.6) per kilogramme exported last year.
Speaking to Prosper magazine, some exporters like Esco (U) Ltd managing director, Mr Phillip Bates, says: “Despite the drop in international price, we have maintained the local farmgate price at Shs5,000 per kilogramme and this leaves us with a minimal profit.”
The other challenge that Uganda is experiencing at the international market is her competitors like Malawi and Kenya are near the port, making them more competitive. “Cost of production in Kenya and Malawi is low and this also helps our competitors to reach the market faster than Uganda which is landlocked,” Mr Sameer Pandya, the managing director of Mayana Enterprises, another chilli exporter says.
Exporters say that in order for Uganda to compete favourably, she should increase production. Statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that in 2012, the country exported nearly 400 metric tonnes which fetched Shs4.9 billion ($2 million).
European Union is still the leading buyer of chilli from Uganda and other producing countries. Locally, there is low consumption of Chilli and the little consumed is mixed with curry.
However, Mr Bates is optimistic that if Ugandan farmers follow the best agronomical practices, the country will outcompete its competitors because the quality of Uganda’s chilli is better. Exporters who work with the cooperative organisation have invested in training of the farmers with good agronomical practices in order to boost production and quality.
Globally, leading producers and exporters of pepper and chilli are India, Viet Nam, Indonesia, China and Brazil.