What you need to know:
- Ugandan producers often find it difficult to meet sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards required to export goods to Europe and the United States.
Are you a farmer or processor? Or are you involved in any part of agricultural value chain?
If yes, then, going forward, no matter what part of the country you are located, you have no excuse hitting the market with untested products.
All the four regions—central, eastern, northern and now western part of the country, have testing laboratories for you to make use of before taking up shelves.
The testing laboratories will be used to test for standards and monitor the quality and safety of products meant for both food and non-food products like edible fats and oils, milk and milk products, water and fruits and vegetables.
This will be in addition to cereal and cereal products, grains, animal products including fish, meat and honey, tea, coffee, sugar, and horticultural products, beverages, alcoholic and energy drinks and related products.
According to Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the tests to be conducted on the commodities will include Chemical parameters such as aflatoxins, pesticide residues, and veterinary drug residues.
Other technical testing to be monitored include: active ingredients in chemicals, food nutrients and heavy metals, microbiological parameters such as bacterial counts of different types, pathogens, bacterial loads, coliforms, yeasts and moulds among others.
This is important because investors, according to International Trade Administration (ITA), consider Uganda’s agricultural potential to be among the best in Africa, with low temperature variability, fertile soils, and two rainy seasons over much of the country - leading to multiple crop harvests per year.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, Uganda’s fertile agricultural land has the potential to feed 200 million people.
But Ugandan producers often find it difficult to meet sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards required to export goods to Europe and the United States.
Regionally, Ugandan produced commodities such as poultry, sugar, and milk products usually face export restrictions from Kenya, one of the country’s main export destinations, due to standard challenges.
Commercialisation of the sector is impeded by lack of quality packaging capabilities, insufficient storage facilities, poor post-harvest handling practices—all of which have a bearing on ultimate standards and export earnings generated from wide range of agricultural products including: coffee, tea, sugar, livestock, including milk and milk products, fish, edible oils, cotton, tobacco, plantains, corn, beans, cassava, sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, and groundnuts among other produces.
In FY 2021/22, agriculture accounted for about 24 per cent of GDP, and 33 per cent of export earnings, which according to agricultural value chain expert, should increase, now that the standard testing facilities have been brought much nearer to the agricultural producers and processors than before.
Worth noting is that even with the four UNBS Food Safety laboratories in Kampala, Mbale, Gulu and now Mbarara, it emerged that there are significant investment opportunities in country’s agriculture sector, including in production, input supply, value addition processing, export, post-harvest handling and importantly standards compliance.
Decentralising standard testing
After commissioning testing and safety facilities for Northern Uganda in Gulu City in July, 2022 and for Eastern region in Mbale City in September, 2022, last week on Friday, UNBS with support from the Danish Government through Trade Mark Africa launched the Western Region Laboratory Testing Services in Mbarara city.
This is the third regional food safety laboratory which is part of the standard’s body effort of decentralising standards and conformity assessment services nearer to the Enterprises countrywide.
According to UNBS, the regional food safety laboratories are expected to complement UNBS Central Laboratories based in Kampala, to reduce the cost of doing business for industries and enterprises operating from these regions.
According to the UNBS executive director, Mr David Livingstone Ebiru, these facilities are meant to serve Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) who are involved in processing and value addition in the agricultural value chain such as dairy, beef, horticulture, cereals, grains, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Coffee, tea, water, honey, fish and poultry products among others.
“These testing laboratories will also promote fair trade and enhance competitiveness of locally manufactured products both on the domestic and exports market, while at the same time protecting consumers against consumption of harmful and substandard products,” reads the statement.
The Equipment for the three regional food safety laboratories, amounting to $4,455,283 (about Shs6.6 billion) were donated to Uganda through the UNBS by Trade Mark Africa (TMA), with funding from the Danish government.
Uganda is losing approximately $200m (over Shs700 billion) in exports of agricultural products to markets in the European Union and the United Kingdom due to among others, lack of proper standards and using agrochemicals that have been banned worldwide.