New study pokes holes in bakery sector

Women sell damaged bakery products at Teso Bar, Lira City, on June 19, 2024. Uganda's bakery industry is facing numerous challenges. PHOTO/BILL OKETCH 

What you need to know:

  • Most bakers said they acquired the bakery knowledge either from friends, mothers, or relatives and majority of them lack training  in baking, a hindrance to understanding quality standards and safety measures.

A new study has unearthed several challenges hindering the progressive growth of Uganda’s bakery industry.

The study conducted by Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) shows that the lack of access to modern baking equipment and knowledge gaps compromise standards set by regulators. Other challenges include; inadequate cold chain infrastructure, shortage of skilled labour and technical expertise, inconsistent enforcement of standards and insufficient inspection and monitoring by regulatory bodies to ensure quality and safety.

The research titled “Identification of Standards Gaps in the Bakery and Confectionery Industries (IDE-STABACO)" conducted from January 2021 to July 2023 was conducted in collaboration with the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) II.

Prof Charles Muyanja, the Principal Investigator from Makerere University's School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-engineering and co-investigator Mr Hakim Mufumbiro from the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) told Monitor on June 19 that the research aimed to identify existing standards gaps in Uganda’s bakery and confectionery industries and propose solutions to address them.

He said the findings are crucial for improving the understanding and implementation of quality and safety standards within the sector.

“And one of the biggest challenges they (respondents/bakers) talked about was the production equipment. Most of their equipment are outdated and sometimes not easy to clean which means that they affect the quality and safety of the products, which is not very good for the consumers,” Prof Muyanja said. He added;

“So, as the consumer, you are not sure whether what you’re eating is safe. The good thing is, you don’t go where they produce the products from. Otherwise, if you go there you may not eat their products.”

The researchers dug deeper into bakers’ competences.

“What basically was noted in this sector is the lack of awareness of standards that govern their sector. And most of the bakers when we talked with them said they acquired the bakery knowledge either from friends, mothers, or relatives and majority of them lack training  in baking, which has brought hindrance to understanding of the standards,” Prof Muyanja said.

In order to increase the awareness and utilisation of standards which are set by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the standards are currently being translated to Luganda and Kiswahili.

“I hope if more funds are provided, these standards are going to be translated into other different languages to increase the utilization of standards so that the products they produce are accredited and they can reach a wider market,” Prof Muyanja said. 

During the bakery and confectionery industry knowledge clinic in Lira City on June 19, bakers who are not certified by UNBS said they cannot penetrate the market.

But if certified, they are optimistic they can sell their products to different consumers and break even.

Ms Fortunate Ahumuza of Mbarara-based Luscious Bakes Uganda, earlier noted that learning about standardization will give them a competitive advantage over other bakers.

The industry knowledge clinic series focuses on disseminating the study’s key findings, according to Mr Geoffrey Sempiri from UNCST, also the coordinator for SGCI in Uganda.

“Before the dissemination workshop starts, Professor (Muyanja) gives every participant a blank paper to write at least two problems which they think they have in their baking business,” he said. He added;

“And it is interesting that actually the problems they come up with are the same problems captured in the report. So, it shows that actually the research was done and it is very representative of the real situation on ground.”

Mr Edward Kizza, UNBS standards officer trained 60 bakers from northern Uganda through the required standards for bakery products, hygiene, labelling and packaging, implementation strategies for standards, among others.

The research has recommended continuous professional development and training programmes necessary to enhance skills and knowledge of best practices, and more efforts to educate and train key players on compliance requirements.

“The government together with Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, UNBS, academia, have to design short courses for training in aspects of food safety and baking so that most of the people have competence in baking. Yeah, that is how we can improve the sector,” Prof Muyanja concluded.