UGANDA – The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) officials and non-governmental organization Feed the Future, have stressed the importance of producing high-quality grain to meet requirements for facilitating local and regional trade during talks with farmers in the Mbale and Bulambuli regions.
The Principal Public Relations Officer of UNBS, Ms. Sylvia Kirabo, claimed that most grain traders lack an understanding of standards, which impairs quality.
“We are looking at the value chain of sorghum, rice, and maize through standardization strategies of certification and market surveillance,” she said.
Mr. Gaston Kironde, the Senior Surveillance Officer at UNBS, emphasized that if the standards are not adhered to, the consumers, government, and the business community are all negatively affected.
“Non-Compliance to standards leads to poor quality goods which affect the health of the public, government’s reputation due to poor quality exports and, seizing of goods and business closures leading to losses among the business community,” he said.
Mr. Kironde further sensitized the traders about the requirements of the Rice, Sorghum, and Maize standards and urged them to adhere to the Standards Requirements before UNBS intervenes with the enforcement arm.
On the other hand, the Principal Certification Officer at UNBS, Mr. Ronald Ahimbisibwe, pushed the dealers to create groups to save certification and marketing costs.
“You need to register and get certification marks to get access to international markets, but it’s easier if you form associations and cooperatives,” he said.
The grain merchants requested that UNBS set up checkpoints along the routes to inspect the quality of agricultural products.
To improve post-harvest handling of maize and other grain products, Mr. Gerald Wamono, a dealer in maize and rice, suggested that the government construct warehouses in various areas throughout the nation.
The Bulambuli District TAABU Integrated Cooperative Society member Ms. Florence Gibutayi recommended giving the traders no-interest loans.
“We have no access to friendly loans, which can support us to grow our business through purchasing equipment,” he said.
As small-scale millers are not aware of the norms, Mr. Patrick Opedun, the agricultural officer for Bulambuli, encouraged UNBS to intensify sensitization.
On the grounds that it contained significant amounts of aflatoxins, Kenya banned the importation of maize from Uganda in March.
However, the Kenyan government disclosed in July that it was in discussions with Uganda to import maize, indicating changes in quality.
The East African Grain Council (EAGC) reported in the same month that more than 70% of the grains grown by smallholder farmers are rejected by foreign traders due to low quality.
The UNBS activities in Eastern Uganda were supported by the US Government, through USAID and Feed-the-Future under the IAM Project.
“We are here to work with UNBS to raise awareness about quality Standards and also have all participants commit to improving the quality of their products,” said Ms. Kirsten Pfeiffer, the Deputy Chief of Party at Feed-the-Future, IAM Project.