Kampala- Foodstuffs dominated Uganda’s exports to regional markets in 2018, with farmers enjoying improved yields due to favourable weather.
However, manufacturers faced weak demand for their products even as recent political developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan give hopes of stronger demand for industrial products this year.
According to Bank of Uganda data, total exports to Kenya rose to $719m as of December 2018 compared to the $551.06m recorded in 2017 with maize grain topping the exports.
In addition to maize, Uganda exported beans, simsim, pineapples, watermelons and eggs in the second half of 2018.
However, exports to the DR Congo fell by 10 per cent to $450m last year, a decline partly attributed to the prolonged Ebola epidemic and election uncertainties dating back to 2016.
Fresh conflicts, especially in eastern DR Congo - a traditional entry point for Ugandan products - compounded the problems.
Total exports to South Sudan increased by 5 per cent to $405m by close of December 2018, a trend partly attributed to slight increases in global oil prices and higher government spending in Africa’s youngest country.
The return of relative peace after signing a pact and a symbolically significant handshake between political rivals president Salva Kiir and former vice president Dr Rieck Marchar helped reopen the market.
South Sudan relies on oil revenues to finance more than 90 per cent of its budget. But current efforts aimed at diversifying its resource base are yet to yield significant results.
Exports to Rwanda increased from $180.8m in 2017 to $212m in 2018 while total exports to Burundi dropped from $42.94m to $40.69m over the same period.
Overall, maize exports grew from $95.91m in 2017 to $106.81m in 2018, while beans raked in $99m up from $84m during the same period.
Simsim exports rose from $17.3m in 2017 to $26.6m in 2018, Central Bank data shows.
Growing exports to Kenya
Uganda’s exports to South Sudan, according to Dr Adam Mugume the Bank of Uganda director for research, increased by about 5 per cent partly because of modest growth in oil revenues and higher government expenditure but the bulk of these exports were food items.
Similarly, he said, Uganda’s exports to Kenya increased to more than $700m in 2018 due to huge volumes of maize and other cereals exported to Kenya.