Value addition: Taking agricultural produce to the next level

Monday September 14 2020

Soroti Fruit Factory crushes about 50 metric tonnes of fruits per day. The factory adds value to a range of locally grown oranges and mangoes o produce Teju juice. PHOTO | FILE


The increased agricultural production seems to have laid a foundation for agro-industrialisation, with a need for government and other stakeholders to invest in value addition to address post-harvest losses and increase the value of agricultural produces. 
Uganda’s Import Bill, according to President Museveni stands at around $7billion per year. Shockingly, according to President Museveni, the list of the imports is littered with items that should have been produced and added value.
It seems the message to add value on locally produced goods is sinking into the hearts and minds of local entrepreneurs, especially farmers. 
One such entrepreneur willing to go the full length, is Ms Julian Adyeri Omalla, an expert in agriculture and rural transformation. 
The story of Ms Adyeri is that of resilience and hard work. The industrious entrepreneur’s ability to mentally cope with a crisis quickly seems to be part of her natural make up.
Armed with these traits and more, she has over the last 24 years been able to build Delight (U) Ltd from nothing to something admirable and high value. The company now engages in production of fruits and processing of juices under the renowned brand name of Cheers. 
Unlike some local entrepreneurs, Ms Adyeri says the crisis resulting from the Coronavirus disease is a wake up call, reminding all economic sector players of their responsibilities to the economy and the country at large.   
Like everyone else, Ms Adyeri’s resolve continues to be tested by the Covid-19 pandemic, taking heavy toll on businesses and livelihood alike. 
Before the total lockdown was instituted in March, she had started delivering nearly 20 trucks of mangoes to markets in Kampala on regular basis. 
Within a matter of hours, the trucks of mangoes, all the way from her farm in Nwoya District in northern Uganda, would be emptied with demand for more.  
When the government instituted a shutdown with a view to suppress the spread of Covid-19. The resultant containment measures had an impact on her operations as her supply straightaway took a hit, dropping from nearly 20 trucks to about eight.
Within a short time, the supply became more irregular as tonnes of fruits began to rot in the field because of difficulties to transport them to the lucrative markets in Kampala and several other urban centres.

Hard lesson
With a hard lesson learnt and being the entrepreneur she is, Dr Adyeri decided that she would not have her fingers burnt twice. For that, she decided to pursue value addition full time as a way to respond to the imminent challenges being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.  
With the help of National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), Dr Adyeri’s dream to secure a fully-fledged processing plant, amounting to nearly Shs20b, although long overdue, seems to be within reach now.  
According to the spokesperson of Naads, Ms Khadijah Nakakande, it emerged that government through the secretariat will allocate Shs19b this financial year to construct a fruit processing factory in Nwoya District. 
She said the factory is part of an initiative by the government to add value to the abundant fruits in the region, most of which rot away in the gardens.
It has emerged that the fruit factory to be established in partnership with Delight Uganda Ltd, Nwoya District Local Government and Nwoya Fruit Growers Cooperative Society, where more than 3,000 fruit out growers from eight sub counties are set to benefit, is part of the direct fulfilment of the many Presidential pledge.
In a recent interview during a market sale of mangoes produced by Nwoya Farm, the Executive Director of Naads, Dr Samuel Mugasi, said the 12 metric tonne per hour processing plant will add value to the mangoes, oranges and guavas grown in Nwoya District and if need be other part of the country as well. 
The installation of the processing equipment will be done in phases starting with eighth metric tonne per hour for mangoes and oranges, and later four metric tons per hour will be installed. 
In the same event, the Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, said the construction of the factory is set to commence this financial year.
Ms Adyeri during the tour of the Nwoya Farm told journalists that the establishment of the factory is long overdue, considering the amount of fruits getting wasted in the field yet they could have been used as a raw materials for the plant.
Under the Delight Farm, she grows mangoes on 1,000 acres, oranges on 150 acres and guavas on 50 acres. This is in addition to 2,500 acres of fruits by the out growers.
“Per tree of mangoes I can harvest between 50 and 150 mangoes. The good news is that I can harvest up to 300 mangoes per tree and I am working hard to reach that level. Remember I cannot do this alone, I employ more people and emancipate hundreds if not thousands of household from poverty, thereby transforming their lives for the better,” she said.
 The issue of pests and diseases remains an area that she said requires help. She wants partnership in this regard, saying Delight Training Institute is more than happy to collaborate in the effort to find solution to this challenge. As a result of pest and diseases, she doesn’t reap enough from per tree of mango.  
Pruning alone, she spends not less than Shs20m. If you are to add spraying, weeding and all that is required then so is the cost! 
Ms Adyeri is disturbed by the fact that youth look down on agriculture, noting that if this trend is not quickly arrested, the future of the sector that is responsible for the livelihood of the majority population could totally collapse. 
She said: “Youth don’t want agriculture. And that is a problem. So government should put good infrastructure and subsidies to entice the young people into this sector or else, the future could be bleak for all of us.”
For years now, the 20km road leading to the farm where the fruit processing factory is going to be established has been in shambles. It is literary unpassable. 
She said doesn’t entice young people into venturing into a sector whose cost of doing business is not only high but also dependent on efficiency of other sectors such as transport.     
The future 
Ms Adyeri wants more local entrepreneurs to venture into value addition and processing, saying it is a measure of progress and the ultimate way to transform the economy and the country for the better. 
She started out as a trader before transforming into a full time processor. Now her company does production of Orchard fruits and seedlings (Mangoes, Guavas, Citrus, Coffee) on 20-acre of land in Senge Wakiso District with poultry structures of a 45,000 birds capacity, 1400 acres in Nwoya District and 20 acres in Tororo (Kidera Demonstration Farm) with a poultry farm and nursery. 
The fruits mainly feed into the processing plant in Kawempe in Kampala District with an output of 12,786 liters of ready to drink juice and 13, 440 liters of dilute to taste juice per day.

Farmers buying into value addition prospects 
In a related development, farmers from several districts in Northern Uganda and West Nile could end up managing processing plant as government through Naads and Uganda and Development Corporation (UDC) with the help of Uganda Development Bank (UDB) goes about entrenching the import substitution agenda. 
It is in the same vein that construction of mango processing factory in Yumbe District is back in the picture with the farmers willing to take up leadership and ownership of the plant. 
The difference with this processing factory from others is that it is exclusively designed to process local mangoes whose make natural up varies from the hybrid fruits. 
Yumbe Mango Processing Factory is essentially a government initiative managed by Naads in partnership with Food and Nutrition Solutions Ltd and Aringa Mango Farmers’ Cooperative Society. 
The construction of the 5 to 6 metric ton per hour factory had stalled after the funder for structure that will house the processing equipment. 
Following a directive from the President, government through Naads released Shs8.7 billion to enable the completion of the factory.  Already Coca Cola Company has offered to buy 5,000MT of the mango concentrate per year from the factory. 

Expert weigh in 
Dr Fred Muhumuza, a renowned economist and a lecturer of economics at the Makerere School of Economics, noted: “Value addition is a tough talk in Uganda, considering our context.”  
 “Given that there is no prior arrangements that links the various parts of the value chain makes the talk of value addition a tough topic to discuss meaningfully.”
This is because farmers in Uganda plant with no idea of what the processor wants. Before you know it (farmers) are stuck with their produces because value chain breaks along the way because it is either overwhelmed or so weak to handle the process.
And this is before you are faced with the issues related to quantity.

Weighing on the need for value addition drive and linkages, the Research Fellow – Economic Policy Research Centre, Tonny Odokonyero, says for the country’s economy to grow to the levels that is desirable, strengthening of value addition drivers and linkages will have to be a mandatory requirement.    
He says value addition is crucial in generating more jobs, absorb excess labour from the agricultural sector, increase profit margins of value chain actors in agriculture, and ultimately boost income for both rural and urban population.  The demand for quality products require investment in sophisticated technology to deliver the expected quality. Population with high disposable income, according to the EPRC research fellow is key in driving value addition.