What you need to know:
- The experts told the Monitor that by doing this, the government will reduce the food shortages being experienced by families across the country and stabilise food prices, which have been rising due to low crop yields.
Food systems experts have asked the government to reject the request by Kenya to buy maize from Uganda and stop ongoing informal exports of essential food commodities.
The experts told the Monitor that by doing this, the government will reduce the food shortages being experienced by families across the country and stabilise food prices, which have been rising due to low crop yields.
But the Agriculture minister, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, said they are still looking into the proposals from the Kenyan government and the concerns of local experts and activists.
Dr Herbert Talwana, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Production at Makerere University, told this newspaper that it is important to restrict food exports because there is no assurance that there will be stable rainfall in the second season.
“Government should tell people not to sell food. The harvest was low, if you open the cob, there is no maize completely. The demand for maize inside the country is big enough not to allow any sale of maize outside the country,” Dr Talwana said.
He added: “All countries in East Africa are struggling, that is why even the rice from Tanzania has reduced because they also don’t have enough to feed their population. It doesn’t make sense to sell to people in other countries.”
Rice from Tanzania is one of the major sources for Uganda to supplement low production in the country.
Due to the low yields, the price of posho has risen to Shs3,500 in some areas, up from an average of Shs1,500. Maize bran, a major component of animal feeds, is going for somewhere between Shs850 and Shs1,200 per kilogramme, up from around Shs600. The price increase is in other important food grains such as rice and beans.
Reports from communities indicate that already, a number of Kenyan traders are in the country combing for maize supplies going as far as buying ungraded maize from gardens.
“It is unwise for anybody to sell maize now. Even if they are buying at Shs2,000 [per kilogramme], you will sell it today and buy posho tomorrow at Shs4,000. What will you have done to yourself? You should rather mill your posho and keep to feed your family,” Dr Talwana added.
“In the short term as a country, the food shortage can be addressed through importation. The rains have delayed [for the second planting season]. This is July, but we don’t have any stable rain anywhere in the country. So at the moment, there is no quick fix for food insecurity,” he added.
Ms Agnes Kirabo, the executive director of Food Rights Alliance, on the other hand, said the challenge is that there is no one directly in charge of controlling imports and exports of food in Uganda.
“It is embarrassing to make headlines that people are dying of hunger in a country of plenty. But we don’t have anyone we can hold accountable for this mess,” she told this newspaper.
She added: “Ministry of Agriculture will say they have produced food but we don’t know where it went, and the Ministry of Trade will tell you that we are in a free market economy because everyone does whatever they want and the farmer will tell you that the traders were buying from them cheaply. So everybody will give an excuse.”
Ms Kirabo asked the government to establish a national food reserve that supports the producing parts of the country to produce more and also ensure that the food goes to areas where there is scarcity.
“We need to streamline food governance. We need to have an institution that plans and makes trajectories for our national and household food security in the country. If we are still dealing with it as a disaster, and leaving everything to chance and thinking that everything can translate into food security, then the entire country can go into a food crisis,” she added.
When these issues were presented to Minister Tumwebaze, he said they are yet to arrive at a position as government.
“Government hasn’t taken a position on that. We are now focusing on producing more and more,” the minister said in a short statement.
President Museveni said on Wednesday night during his address to the nation that the maize yield, one of the major crops consumed in learning institutions and homes, reduced to around 3 million tonnes in the first season of 2022. This is lower than around 5 million tonnes harvested in the previous season of 2021. More than 600 starvation-related deaths have already been reported by leaders in Karamoja and some parts of Lango.