Horticulture exporters turn to Kenya to export perishables

Tuesday February 25 2020

Women prepare hot pepper for export. Exports

Women prepare hot pepper for export. Exports from the fruit and vegetable industry fetch about $100m per annum. FILE Photo 

By Joanita Mbabazi

Horticulture exporters have now turned to Kenya to export their perishable goods. This comes as result of Ministry of Agriculture, Animal, Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) imposing unnecessary payments which are not receipted and uncalled for interceptions in the country.
In Kenya, their cargo is easily transported and flown to the European market where there is ready market without any interceptions as long as they meet the required documentation.
These have petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to intervene before the horticulture export business comes to a standstill.

The horticulture sector alone accounts for 85 per cent by quantity of the total agricultural products shipped out of Uganda almost annually. These include fruits such as bananas, passion fruits, pineapples, avocados, baby mangoes and apples among others and vegetables such as hot pepper, eggplants, okra and chilies.
The sector is estimated to benefit 2.5 million people while 1.5 million households benefit from exports, border trade and domestic trade of fruits and vegetables.
Exports from the fruit and vegetable industry fetch about $100m per annum while cross border trade within the region is estimated at $55m per annum.
Uganda has about more than 64 exporting companies that export fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, providing a ready market for farmers who grow these fruits and vegetables while earning daily income.
But exporters are now at crossroads.
“We invest heavily in the horticulture business and this is not money from government. But we are being frustrated by our own government. The markets are readily available for fruits and vegetables such as hot pepper especially in the European market but we cannot,” Mr Agusse Kalimba, a hot pepper farmer and exporter.
“Investing in a farm of hot pepper costs a farmer between Shs15m and Shs100m. But why do MAAIF inspectors delay to inspect our produce? Worse more, no receipt is issued upon inspection but it is done verbally,” Mr Kalimba complains.

Exporters like Kalimba must pay to book flights to export their products but by the time one is cleared off, at times it’s too late.
“I invested more than Shs15 million in my hot pepper growing business only to be told by the ministry upon harvesting that I cannot export hot pepper to Europe. MAAIF inspectors said my produce was infected by pests known as False Codling Moth and this is preventable. I import my pesticides from Germany; how can they be of substandard,” he ponders.
“Surprisingly, the same pepper rejected by MAAIF was taken through Kenya and exported to Europe and there was no complaint,” he says.
In addition, Mr Agusse also invested in pepper growing in the neighbouring Rwanda though now the two countries Uganda and Rwanda’s are at logger heads and this has also affected his business.
“I was able to export my pepper to Europe from Rwanda and I am not a citizen in this country. But I was able to business there as a hot pepper farmer. Yet in my own country, I can hardly export one consignment of hot pepper exports, says Mr Agusse.
“Per consignment to be inspected exporters are charged between Shs55,000 and Shs60,000 and no receipt is issued meaning if one has about 10 consignments she or he has to pay about shs550,000. We know all exports are tax-free. But how much does one pay for inspection? We request that this money be paid in the bank,” he adds.
“This is impunity of the highest order; as a country, we advocate for increasing more markets for our products. But we are surprised that officials from the mother ministry are frustrating the private sector,” Ms Kadaga says.
“This is an issue I have to inform cabinet about. Government must help farmers and business people by encouraging them to maintain good quality standards to compete on the international markets and few individuals will not frustrate the horticulture export business,” State Minister for Animal Husbandry Bright Rwamirama says.

Policy cap

Roles. However, according to the Minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, the ministry negotiates markets and trade pacts for Uganda, ensures quality assurance standards are met before we our products are exported to other markets. But for fresh perishables, MAAIF handles.

Export fees. ”There is a policy gap that has to be addressed in regard to export fees that should be charged and lawfully, this money must go the consolidated fund. But this is not the case.