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Fruits and vegetable exports to the European Union are starting to recover, experiencing zero interceptions in over a year
Uganda has experienced zero interceptions for its horticulture exports to the European Union in over a year, according to Mr Fred Zake, the Hortifresh executive director.
Speaking during a stakeholders symposium in Kampala to discuss issues affecting Uganda’s fruits and vegetable exports to the European Union, Mr Zake said their collaboration with government and the European Union, after experiencing various interceptions, was yielding fruits, noting the situation is now totally different compared to about four years ago.
“As exporters, we are seeing the collaboration bearing fruits. Interception of Uganda’s fruits and vegetables in Europe has reduced to zero from 27 four years ago. This was a major barrier to trade,” he said, noting that Ugandan fruits and vegetables had reached the risk of being banned from entering the European Union but the situation was saved by various collaborations, training and enforcements, which have started to bear fruits.
Demand for horticulture exports from Uganda, he also noted, had also surged creating an opportunity for domestic exporters.
Government data indicates that exports of horticulture products has been increasing, rising from 4,400 tonnes in 2014 to 8,600 tonnes in 2020.
However, during the same period, there had been a proportionate increase in the number of interceptions due to noncompliance to market sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
Data also shows that in 2020, horticultural exports to European Union earned €350m (Shs1.4 trillion) compared to €452m (Shs1.9 trillion) in 2017.
The decrease in value was a result of increased interceptions, thus forcing government, the European Union and the private sector to create the farming for exports collaboration last year to sensitise farmers on how to produce quality products that meet the European Union standards.
Ms Caroline Nankinga, the assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Agriculture department of crop inspection and certification, said the collaborations have reversed a the threat of a ban that could have damaged Uganda’s horticulture industry.
“Our farmers did not know how to manage pests. The European Union conducted audits on us in 2016 and 2019 and found that unless we change the way we do things they would not allow our commodities to cross into Europe,” she said noting that together with the private sector, government has with the support of EU ensured that management practices and plant treatment are changed to manage risks related to the fruits and vegetable sector.