The PM Communications team interviewed Tress Bucyanayandi, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Republic of Uganda, and spoke with him about the agricultural sector in the country, as well as investment opportunities. Minister Bucyanayandi spoke about the different entry points for investment and the huge potential of the sector for expansion. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy. It represents 22.5% of the GDP, and employs the 80% of the population. However, the sector is facing some challenges such as adding value to the raw materials or finding new markets. What are the key priorities that your ministry is handling now in unlock the potential of the agricultural sector?
First of all, in a broader sense, my Ministry is in charge of two responsibilities. First, to ensure we produce sufficient food to feed our people (35 million). After meeting our own food requirements as a country, we can send some to our neighboring countries in East Africa. Second, to ensure our export commodities are up, because this is where we get foreign exchange. Food crops are varied, but cash crops are fewer, mainly coffee, cotton, tea, and cocoa.
That is on the side of cash crops. Then, if we go into some sectors, we have to differentiate the crop sector, the animal sector, and the fisheries sector.
Most of our food and export comes from the crop sector. In the livestock sector, we have got a lot of cattle –at the moment 14 million heads. We are producing about 2 billion liters of milk, annually, which we want to export. We will consume our production, and export surplus. In the past, we imported powder milk from Europe. That is history now. We are now self-sufficient, and want to export some. We have got industries processing milk for export. Apart from milk, we want to export beef, and we are trying to ensure we get some investors to put up plants for adequate processing of meat in order to export. We have that potential. If I shift to fisheries, the total capture of fish has increased as a country both from natural lakes, and from aquaculture. We think that aquaculture is very important. Fishes in lakes are very difficult to control, and we might not have sufficient control. In aquaculture, we have got a controlled environment. That is an addition to the lake’s resources. That is the direction.
In terms of investment, there are three levels where we want investors to come. First, investors could come grow commodities and add value to that commodity up to processing, and export. That is one category of entry. The second category is to come, install machinery, and add value. You don’t have to be in farming, but only do processing. We produce a lot of coffee. Much of this is exported in beans, and processed in Europe. We would like to see an investor coming, setting up machineries, and doing roasters, and packaging here. That kind of entry, to handle products here, would be good. We have a lot of vegetables and food. I hope you have tried the Ugandan pineapple; it is the sweetest in the world. We have bananas, tea, and coffee. Someone could set up a factory and start in that entry point. Others could come and provide services to the agricultural sectors. Our soils are rich and fertile, but to a point. Some of them are now poor and degraded because of high exploitation. Providing the service of soil fertilizing is another possible service. We need fertilizers. We are trying to attract others to exploit carbonates. We hope to be manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers. These are companies providing services for agriculture. We also need vaccines. Someone could set up a plant to produce vaccines or other pesticide control mechanisms. Others can invest in packaging. That is not in the agricultural sector, but provides services for agricultural production. You can see the range of entry points for investment in agriculture.Why do you think all those investors don’t know about the potential of Ugandan agricultural sector, fisheries, and crops?
We have a significant number who aren’t known. 40% of all the processing industry in the country is agricultural based. We have coffee processing plants, and others making flower. But that is not enough, 40% is not adequate. We want to have 70 or 80% of processing. You don’t go buy tomato, you buy tomato paste, you don’t buy whole maize, but flower, and you don’t kill a cow, you buy beef from a freezer in the supermarket. That is where we want to go, but we still have a lot to move.Exports have been going down to Europe. What is the main reason?
That is for fish. Our fish is not adequate for the European market.
What is the main reason that will bring you to the African Global Investment Summit?
To talk about this kind of opportunities. We are going to sell our countries, tell you about the opportunities you have when coming in. That would be good for all of us.What do you think about the president’s initiatives? For example: the Banana Industrial Development Program (PIBID).
That initiative was intended to open our eyes, that we can achieve more with presidential initiatives. Traditionally, bananas were harvested and cooked by housewives. Now we know there are many uses for bananas. Even at the production level. We demonstrated the farmer that they could increase their production 10 times. That is fantastic. Is Uganda going to be the food basket of the East African Community?
Yes. But we can do that if we do certain things. We need to produce enough seeds, and a huge range of seeds. Once we have good seeds, we must exploit its full potential; that is why we need fertilizers. For animals, we need good water and pastures. Our seasons are changing, so we have to educate farmers. Once we have advanced in these things, we need to add value. Once we add value, we need to process. Packaging and transportation are important additional industries.
Initiatives I am talking about have been realized. Productivity cannot increase without fertilizers. We are producing them now. I gave you the example of bananas. That is the way forward.Why should investors invest in Uganda’s agricultural sector?
We are not going there to compete, but showcasing what we can offer. Not the whole of Nigeria is as fertile as Uganda. Much of Rwanda is mountainous. Each country has unique features to offer. Instead of competing, we complement each other. Much of the world is hungry. There is room for food. The world demand is not fulfilled.All the main important sectors are going to be there, like energy, or infrastructure. It is a mutual effort by ministries and the presidency. What would be your message to the audience of the Daily Telegraph?
I would invite them to come and invest in Uganda, and Africa. We have got a lot of unexploited potential. We need to act together. We have all the raw materials, the soil, and the rains. The basic is here. And we have labor. I hate to call it cheap labor, but the labor is here. If we came back here in 40 years, what will we see?
You will see something better than what you have seen now. I am sure. It is not even a question. People are moving. There will definitely be change: positive change.