Global plant based company owe success to free regional trade

Workers in a Blue Band production unit. PHOTO/BETTY NDAGIRE

What you need to know:

  • The Iong terms of linkages to farmers, these agro based industries should ideally provide market to farmers produce, but the stubbornly persistent problem of standards remains a disincentive.

The Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) have a huge bearing on the cost of doing business not only in Uganda but also the entire East African (EAC) region.Whereas some of these barriers have been issued for products originating within the region, for some of the companies, owe their success to this free regional trade.According to Mr Peter Muchiri the managing director for Upfield in East and Southern Africa, interestingly, some of the real tenets of the East African Community like free movement of goods are actually working."To be honest the authorities have been very, very kind to us and there was a small issue, about one of our baking variants in Uganda and this took about three or phone calls and it was resolved.The ease of doing business in the region has been great," Mr Muchiri said.This came to light during the media briefing with journalists from Uganda, Kenya and Zambia who toured their Nairobi factory.Upfield manufacturers the renowned household Blue Band brand among others. The Iong terms of linkages to farmers, these agro based industries should ideally provide market to farmers produce, but the stubbornly persistent problem of standards remains a disincentive.Mr David Githenya the Head of Research and Development Africa in Upfield said, for example they launched Blue Band peanut butter in early 2020 before Covid-19, and one of the biggest problems they had was getting good peanuts."We initially got peanuts from Uganda, Kenya and Malawi and Zambia that is within the region, but majority of the peanuts had aflatoxins, and this is basically a toxic compound produced by a microorganism called a fungi and over time if you exposed to it, you get susceptible to getting cancer and many other ailments,"Mr Githenya said. He said because of food safety, this company that was once bent on sourcing peanuts from the region was forced to buy them from India, Argentina and sometimes china.However, they have now decided to come back to the region and in Kenya, they have started a programme where they have engaged farmers who are now growing peanuts using research and they have also engaged a local university good in agriculture. He said for Upfield sorting the raw material end of the value chain would become a priority for the government because with their capacity is a ready market for farm produce and will most definitely feed into the import substitution.Ms Jaquiline Iwiya-Mungai the Africa Head of Marketing at that company said they have renewed their ambition in terms of expansion, packaging,branding and perhaps consolidating their footprint in the child nutrition and wellness market. She said their role is to continue to inspire mothers in how they can enhance the dishes they place before their children, because we know children tend to be so fassy and beyond that we want to help them make sure that they present tasty  meals.Ms Mungai said anything they put out in the market they know is fortified,nutritious and will be good for growing children. That nutrition is what will help the children's cognitive aspect develop ,so that they are able to perform in school to pave the way for their other dreams. [email protected]

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