Last week the Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with two British companies for the installation of agricultural products storage facilities and some processing plants in several districts across Uganda. The deal is worth UGX 590bn.
Any attempts by the government to bring development to Uganda is much welcome but when these initiatives are not well thought out, especially in terms of how they are to be managed, Uganda stands to lose – and this has been the case on several occasions as we either get white elephants or some unscrupulous people end up the beneficiaries.
The problem of lack of storage facilities especially for grains is big. At farm level, it forces many farmers to sell their produce to middlemen at very low prices simply because they don’t have enough space for storage. But what we need is a complete system that assures benefit for all, from the farm to the market, most especially the delivery of a reasonable price for the farmer’s produce.
If the management of these storage facilities is in the hands of a government agency, how can we ensure that they are competently managed? If they are to be handed to the private sector to manage them, how can we ensure that they will not exploit the farmers by buying farmer’s produce at low prices during peak season, storing them, and selling them at high prices when production is low and demand is high? What if we handed the management of the storage facilities to a farmers’ committee, in the previous case a farmers’ cooperative, how would we ensure that they represent the interests of the farmers?
The case we are making here is that we need a management system that ensures benefits for all along the agricultural value chain. Otherwise this will be another wasted opportunity.