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Interview - November 26, 2014

Hon. Tress Bucyanayandi, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Republic of Uganda, talks about the agricultural sector in his country, the different entry points for investors and the huge potential of the sector for expansion. Among its products, he says, is “the sweetest pineapple in the world.”


Uganda´s agriculture industry faces some challenges, such as adding value to raw materials or finding new markets. What are the key priorities that your ministry is has set in order to exploit 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 35 million people. 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 a lot of cattle –at the moment 14 million head. 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 powdered 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 what areas do you hope to attract investment in agriculture? In raising crops, in food processing?

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 machinery, 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. The Ugandan pineapple 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 investors aren’t aware of the potential of Ugandan agricultural sector?

We have a significant number who aren’t known. Some 40% of all the processing industry in the country is agriculturally- 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.

What is your main reason for attending the Global African 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.

Is Uganda going to be the food basket of the East African Community?

Yes, 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 their 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.

Why should investors invest in Uganda’s agricultural sector?

We are not going (to the TGAIS) to compete, but to showcase 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.

I would invite (investors) to come and invest in Uganda, and Africa. We have a lot of unexploited potential. We need to act together. We have all the raw materials, the soil, and the rains. The basics are here. And we have labor. I hate to call it cheap labor, but the labor is here.