With governments’ effort to promote crop value addition, in order to compete favorably on the external market, Uganda Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Farmers Association (Hortifresh) last week launched an office at Kampala Serena Hotel Conference Centre, from where activities to coordinate Hortifresh members across the country will be coordinated.
Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for Agriculture, Hon Bwiino Kyakulaga, said Uganda is second to Nigeria as far as the export of fresh fruits and vegetables is concerned. He said Uganda currently exports 5.8 million tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables annually and aims to raise export earnings to $1 billion annually, calling on members to add value to their crops.
“The sector employs an increasingly large number of people and horticulture exports are worth $35 million per year with Uganda being the second-largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables in Sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria, producing about 11 million tonnes per year,” he said.
Odrek Rwabwogo, Senior Presidential Advisor and Entrepreneur, Farmer said, the horticulture sector has continuously faced several challenges leading to an increasing number of interceptions of the country’s export consignments mainly in the European Union (EU). He said this has greatly inhibited the country from optimally harnessing the immense opportunities that exist in the EU and other markets for the sector.
“To address these challenges, and prepare the country for a successful EU audit of the sector in late 2019, H.E President Yoweri Museveni assigned the then Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, to chair a Multi-Sectoral Committee. The Multi-Sectoral Committee successfully prepared the country for the audit and made several other recommendations for the development of the Horticulture Sector. One of the recommendations is better institutional organisation of the sector through, among others, having one apex body for the sector to ease engagements with Government and private sector-private sector engagements and self-regulation”, he said.
He said in 2019, realising the urgent need for a professional and inclusive business membership organisation for the fresh fruits and vegetables sector (FFV), a group of five eminent business people who were passionate about the sector and saw the potential for the sector to contribute to Uganda’s economic and social transformation decided to set up HortiFresh Association Uganda Limited.
“HortiFresh was officially endorsed as the Apex association through the Kabira Club Declaration by key stakeholders from the private and public sector on 31st July 2021. This was a meeting attended by over 20 key stakeholders, including 5 FFV association heads (HOPE, UHEPA, UFVEPA, FAUEX, and HortiFresh) and senior representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF), Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, (MTIC) and of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED), he added.
Fred Zaake, Head of Horticulture, said the crop sub-sector, which includes horticulture, contributes 14.4 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said the horticultural industry, more than ever before, provides one of the most promising areas for increasing incomes in the rural areas, improving the nutrition of the people, diversification of exports, provision of raw materials for agro-based industries, and creation of employment, especially for the youth owing to the fact that horticultural crops are high-value crops with wide market opportunities locally, regionally and internationally.
Paul Mwambu, the Head of the Crop Inspection Department, said the formation of HortiFresh is aimed at ensuring further organization of the sector to enable smallholder farmers to produce in bulk and to guarantee viable marketable volumes through the provision of key services. He pointed out that HortiFresh will also promote the commercialisation in agriculture and value addition to take advantage of the national, regional, and international markets.
“HortiFresh is, therefore, an all-inclusive apex business membership organisation (BMO) for the fresh fruit and vegetables (FFV) sector in Uganda with the following objectives, effective service delivery, good governance structures, transparency and accountability, Proper representation of stakeholders, and effective and efficient communication and coordination of key stakeholders,” he said.
The participants signed a declaration stating their desire to cooperate and work together under the umbrella of HortiFresh, and to support it to create and set up an independent, dedicated and professional Secretariat to serve members, negotiate with buyers, government, and other stakeholders.