In spite of the fact that agriculture is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Uganda, a significant number of stakeholders still practice subsistence farming.
This is partly due to the challenges in the value chain whereby the testing and certification of products for export is conducted outside of Uganda. As a result, farmers incur huge costs to do this on top of leading to capital flight estimated in millions of dollars annually.
However, all this is set to end after the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries finalised the deal for the construction of the National Metrology Laboratory on November 24. The laboratory will be the first of its kind in the country and upon completion in 18 months’ time, all testing will be done locally, thereby saving farmers the extra cost to send samples abroad.
More importantly, the project will increase the competitiveness of commodity value chains in maize, rice, dairy and beef, where farming households and other value chain actors in 47 districts spread across the country will be supported to systematically and sustainably access quality inputs.
The four commodities cumulatively earned Uganda income from exports totalling $312 million (Shs 1.14 trillion) in 2019. All this is in line with government efforts to commercialise the agriculture sector.
The signing of the contract took place at the ministry headquarters in Entebbe between Pius Wakabi Kasajja, the ministry permanent secretary, and the successful contractor, Prisma Limited, which was represented by Francis Olul.
“Uganda has hitherto been disadvantaged in her agricultural produce export journey, with the need to have factory and laboratory equipment calibrated in Kenya and South Africa, which increases the cost of exports, making our products less competitive than those of the other countries. This National Metrology Laboratory, once completed, will reduce the cost of exports and positively impact our national doing business index,” Kasajja said.
Funding for the construction was raised through a partnership with the African Development Bank under the Agricultural Value Chain Development Programme (AVCP) – Project 1.
The project will also strengthen farmer groups and form cooperatives; link the cooperatives to aggregators and processors; and, among other activities, support the certification process to ensure that the final products from processors meet the quality requirements of the internal and external markets.
The laboratory will further ensure that the equipment in the National Food Safety Laboratory and other agro-food processing laboratories in the country are calibrated to ensure accurate measurement and reliable test results to support exports and consumer safety.
Also in attendance was David Livingstone Ebiru, the acting executive director of Uganda National Bureau of Standards, who noted that: “this laboratory is a much-needed intervention and will go a long way to ease UNBS work in certifying quality products for export.”