Ugandans' raving appetite for pork makes them the biggest consumers of pork in Africa.
This has been disclosed by Dr Ben Lukuyu, the Uganda Country Representative of the International Livestock Research Institute.
He was presenting research findings on sweet potato and production of silage from vines for growing pigs at the Roots, Tubers and Bananas end of project meeting in Entebbe, Wednesday.
The research, conducted in Masaka and Kamuli Districts, explored linkages between sweet potato production and growing of pigs for consumption and commerce.
Dr Lukuyu, an animal nutritionist, said the per capita consumption of pork in Uganda is 3.5 kilogrammes, making Uganda the biggest consumer of pork in Africa and second to China globally.
He added that 1.1 million households keep pigs and 3.5 million smallholder farmers directly depend on growing pigs, while millions others are employed in the value chain.
According to Dr Lukuyu, while the pigs sub-sector is growing by leaps and bounds, it is facing a number of challenges like high cost of feeds, poor quality and quantity of feeds; hence the need to explore usage of potato vines.
He said although the growing of pigs and demand for pork is huge and growing, performance of Ugandan pigs in terms of weight gain and growth is relatively poor yet the potential of feeds is high.
Dr Lukuyu said the potato vines, key in making silage, are available locally at no cost from farms, homesteads, markets and hotels. He said there is an opportunity to exploit the wide availability of sweet potato vines, as well as other variety of feeds to boost piggery, adding that sweet potato vines offer better digestibility in pigs.
Dr Lukuyu added that the pig production industry is showing no sign of slowing down, hence the need to promote it.
Ms Mary Asindu, a student of Makerere University who was part of the research team, said market potential for silage from sweet potatoes is huge because so much waste is generated from the crop.
Asindu said in the research areas of Masaka and Kamuli they found out that the market for silage from sweet potato vines is eight billion Shillings and three billion Shillings respectively.
Nationally, Asindu says that the market potential for silage made from sweet potato vines is 11 billion Shillings.
Yvonne Munabi, who is in charge of investment at Uganda Investment Authority, said such sweet potato vines silage innovation should translate into lower prices for consumers instead of the reverse.
A kilo of pork presently goes for at least Shs10, 000 in most towns, way too expensive for many Ugandans.
Uganda is the biggest producer of sweet potatoes in Africa, with most farming households actually producing the crop. The sweet potato is literally grown throughout Uganda including in arid Karamoja.