UGANDA – The Agriculture Ministry in Uganda is deliberating the establishment of a Food and Agriculture Authority to coordinate institutions involved in food and feed safety.
However, the proposal has sparked a heated discussion during a consultative meeting. Consultants suggest that the Authority should fall under both the Health and Agriculture Ministries to ensure comprehensive oversight.
The Food and Feeds Law Bill is being crafted to guide food safety, aiming to ensure safe production, distribution, processing, marketing, and preparation of food for human consumption.
Speaking at the event, Mr Kedera Chagema, a Coordinator of the Food and Feeds Law, said “In Kenya, we came up with the Food and Feeds Bill which now brings together the requirement of both food and feed safety.”
The World Health Organization estimates that 600 million people fall ill annually due to contaminated food, with 420,000 deaths.
While some argue that the Food and Agriculture Authority would streamline operations, critics, including political scientist Matsiko Kahunga, question the necessity.
Kahunga suggests that the agricultural sector already has specialized organizations, and creating another authority may lead to overlaps, opaque mandates, and conflicting interests.
Mr. Bright Rwamirama, the State Minister for Animal Industry, emphasizes the need to overcome silos in government agencies. He asserts that addressing the issue of creating silos and improving competency profiling is crucial.
However, Kahunga proposes an alternative, suggesting a split of the ministry into autonomous divisions for livestock, fisheries, agronomy and crop production.
The debate raises questions about the mandate of the proposed authority, with concerns about potential overlaps and lack of clarity.
Some argue that existing organizations, such as the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and regulatory bodies like UNBS, are already performing well in their respective domains.
The restructuring suggestion includes creating a Foods and Beverages Authority (FBA) to regulate and assure food quality, safety, and nutritional essentials along the entire value chain. This proposal aims to address gaps in the regulation of nutraceuticals and food supplements, currently overseen by UNBS.
Critics also express skepticism about the proposed authority’s mandate and urge the government to focus on restructuring existing institutions and investing in agri-industrial development.