DR Congo insecurity, Tanzanian rice, stifling market for Ugandan farmers

KAMPALA – Access to markets is one of the motivating factors for one to go into farming. 

Although for some crops market demand is high, conditions like insecurity usually hinder market access.

This demotivates farmers to invest in farming projects. Such is a scenario being faced by rice farmers in Uganda’s northern and West Nile regions, who have been relying on DR Congo and South Sudan markets for their produce.

According to the manager of Kehong Peyero Millers Ltd, Anthony Okello based in Gulu, they used to sell rice to traders in DR Congo, two years ago but haven’t been able to do so in recent times due to insecurity.

Henry Mawanda (L) from Kilimotrust and Dr John Jagwe from AGRA look at some of the rice being harvested on the farm.

Henry Mawanda (L) from Kilimotrust and Dr John Jagwe from AGRA look at some of the rice being harvested on the farm.

Some of the rice varieties that they have been selling include upland rice varieties, of the Namche series that were developed by NARO with support from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The varieties were distributed by Kilimotrust through the Competitive African Rice Initiative in East Africa (CARI-EA) project, aimed at increasing the competitiveness of locally produced rice to reduce rice imports into the EAC region.

To ensure that farmers access the rice quickly, Kilimotrust is working with Seed Companies like Equator Seeds Ltd to supply the seed to farmers and to millers like Peyero Millers Ltd to provide a ready market for the paddy produced by the over 10,000 farmers working with this miller.

“However, due to the increasing insecurity in DR Congo, coupled with the influx of Tanzanian rice on the Ugandan market, there has been a drop in prices of paddy rice offered to farmers from sh1,000 per kilogram to as low as sh800,” added Okello from Payero millers.

He added that in the past, traders from DR Congo used to drive into Uganda, buy rice and then drive back, some would send the money and only wait for the rice to be delivered, however, these have since disappeared because of the insecurity along the route used by traders on the DR. Congo side.” added Okello.

Okello’s concerns were further backed up by Franco Alia, the partnership manager at Equator Seeds Limited who testified that DR Congo remains a volatile region and has no clear trade systems, later on, compensation mechanisms.

 AGRA Kilimo team in Northern Uganda checking on rice farmers to find out if their interventions are helping farmers increase productivity.

AGRA Kilimo team in Northern Uganda checking on rice farmers to find out if their interventions are helping farmers increase productivity.

“Most times businessmen travel to Arua to meet the traders and sometimes these transact business on phone and then drive the produce themselves to DR Congo,” said Alia.

The two made the revelations while meeting a team from AGRA and Kilimo Trust, who were on a working visit to rice farmers across the country, to find out progress made since CARI-EA project was launched.

The three-year project (2019 – 2022) is implemented through a business partnership approach through which rice millers/ processors are the anchor partners, crowding in smallholder farmers and providers of the necessary business development services including finance, extension, quality agro-inputs, labour saving and paddy quality enhancing technologies.

Henry Mawanda, a program officer at Kilimo Trust, said despite the above concerns, some buyers could have dropped off due low competitiveness of the locally produced rice in terms of quality and prices.

“As evidenced by the impact of the influx of Tanzanian rice on the Ugandan rice sub-sector, there is still a need to enhance the competitiveness of Ugandan rice by increasing farmers’ capacity in business skills, technologies such as quality inputs, mechanization services, technologies that minimize postharvest losses among others,” said Mawanda.

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