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Chinese rice farm helps boost food security, employment in central Uganda

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KALUNGU, Uganda, June 27 (Xinhua) — A large expanse of lush green rice paddies is a major highlight along the highway from Uganda’s capital Kampala to the southern part of the country.

The 3,000 acre rice farm, with a target of reaching 6,000 acres here in the central district of Kalungu, is owned by Zhong’s Industries Ltd, a private Chinese enterprise.

At the farm, workers from across the east African country are busy working.

At the section of ready to harvest rice, dozens of youths battle with swarms of birds that come to feed on the rice. As a daily task, they whistle, shout and flap to scare away the birds.

“I wake up at six in the morning to go and scare away the birds. We are a group of several youths who do this,” 24-year-old Brown Mfitundinda told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Several hundreds of meters away, combined harvesters are busy as tractors ferry the harvested rice to the rice processing facility also located on the farm.

At the facility, there are huge sun drying areas where the rice from the field is spread out on cemented floors by several dozens of youths mostly women.

After the drying the rice is ferried into the processing facility where it is milled before it is packed in 50kg bags with inscriptions “Zhong Yi” rice.

Zhong Shuangquan, managing director Zhong’s Industries Ltd, told Xinhua in a recent interview that there are over 1,200 local employees and five Chinese working on the farm.

The Chinese largely offer technical expertise especially in preparing the land for cultivation, technology, machinery and sales, according to Zhong.

He said planting, cultivation, harvesting and processing and sales goes on throughout the year. On average the farm makes daily sales of up to 40 tons of rice per day.

Zhong said the company plans to also use the out-grower model where millions of acres of land will be opened up for rice farming across the country.

In Uganda, rice growing is considered strategic as it has the potential to contribute to increasing rural incomes and improving food and nutrition security.

Some of the rice of the country has been exported to regional markets like neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

Experts say the demand for rice is continuing to grow because of the increasing population.

CHINA BOOST

China through a tripartite agreement with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and some member countries has over the years been sending technical experts to Africa through the South-South Cooperation Program.

Uganda is one of the countries that have benefited from this on-the-farm training of small scale farmers to boost production.

At the end of the second phase of the program in 2017, about 3,000 farmers were trained in cereals, horticulture, aquaculture and livestock in Uganda, according to the ministry of agriculture.

During the project, the Chinese technicians introduced the growth of Chinese hybrid rice. Official studies showed that the hybrid rice can yield up to 10 metric tons per hectare compared to the conventional rice which yields 4.5 metric tons per hectare.

Farmers in eastern Uganda, a region renown for rice growing, have already taken on growing the Chinese hybrid rice to boost their household income.

Uganda also established the 220-million-dollar Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park. The park, according to the Ugandan government, will be critical in transforming the country’s economy which is largely dependent on agriculture.

When fully operational, Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park is expected to produce about 600,000 tons of agro-products annually to meet the domestic and regional market demands. Among the agro-products include rice.

EMPLOYMENT

Zhong argued that massive investment in rice growing in Uganda will not only boost food security but also create employment.

He said for every youth employed at the Zhong’s Industries Ltd rice farm, there are several people who benefit.

Abel Mfitumukiza, a supervisor at the farm said after several years of looking for formal employment with no success, he left his home district Kisoro in southwestern Uganda and sought to work on the rice farm on recommendation of his brother who was already an employee at the farm.

Mfitumukiza said over the years he has managed to build a permanent house for his family back at home. He also uses part of his savings to pay school fees for his siblings who were on the verge of dropping out of school.

According to the managers of Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park, when the park is fully operational, it will create 25,000 jobs and avail opportunities of training for the local people.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN

Under the country’s wetland restoration drive, there is increasing concern from environmentalists over the cultivation of rice in wetlands. The activists argue that the farmers should instead resort to upland rice farming instead of what they called destroying wetlands.

Ministry of water and environment figures show that the country’s wetland coverage has reduced to 8 percent from 13 percent of the country’s land surface. The reduction is attributed to the population pressure where people are now resorting to wetland reclamation to farm.

Zhong’s Industries Ltd rice farm has faced this criticism but Zhong said they got clearance from the country’s National Environment Management Authority.

Richard Vvuube, senior environment officer Kalungu district where the farm is located told Xinhua that there is need to strike a balance between protecting the environment and also producing food and creating employment.

“We will advise them on how to protect and conserve the environment and at the same time we are getting the food,” Vvuube said.

Original Post: New China

 

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Kiruhura and Kazo lift ban on milk sale

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Ban on the sale of milk has been lifted for two weeks under strict regulations

Kiruhura, Uganda.  Authorities in Kiruhura and Kazo districts have reversed the earlier ban imposed on the sale of milk. The two districts that are under quarantine following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease had banned the sale of animal products and the movement of livestock.

However, in a meeting held between the dairy farmers and district Foot and Mouth disease task forces of both districts, it was agreed to lift the ban on the sale of milk for two weeks but under strict regulations.

Kiruhura District Resident Commissioner Aminadan Muhindo says they have stopped traders who move from house to house collecting milk on motorcycles, but asked them to set up collection centres where farmers will personally deliver their milk.

Kiruhura LC V chairperson Rev Samuel Katugunda welcomed the partial lifting of the ban. He also asked the residents to respect the regulation.

He says the districts are facing an economic crisis because of the total quarantine.

Kazo District Veterinary Officer Richard Kiyemba says they have agreed with dairy farmers to continue selling the milk. He says they are faced with the challenge of unscrupulous people who smuggle livestock out of the district at night.

The quarantine in these districts has increased the smuggling of livestock and its products which is done during the night. Recently, a trader was arrested carrying animals in a Fuso truck heading to Kampala.

Emmanuel Kyeishe, chairperson Kiruhura district Framers Sustainable Development Association, welcomed the lifting of the ban on the sale of milk but warned that the task force is to blame for the widespread of the disease.

He asked the team to ask for reinforcement to boost their monitoring and implementation of the quarantine.

Original Source: THE INDEPENDENT

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Multi-billion cereal processing plant opens in Soroti

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Pela Agro- Processing Factory in Soroti.

Soroti, Uganda. Soroti City will be home to a multi-billion agro-processing business for cereals, thanks to Pela Commodities Limited, a new industry being established in Arapai industrial area.  

Pela commodities has already started laying its machinery in the area near Soroti Fruit Factory. It is expected to handle 18 types of cereals and be able to sort, clean and dry 36 metric tonnes of cereals per hour, according to Isaiah Langa, one of the directors of Pela Commodities Limited. He adds that the plant will easily process over 600 metric tonnes of cereals in less than 24 hours.

Langa adds that they intend to start with maize, soya beans, millet and sorghum produced by farmers in the areas of eastern and northern Uganda, and that their first priority is to improve the quality of grains in the country and open a market for Ugandan grains in the region and beyond.  The cereals currently provide staple food for more than 50 per cent of the population and incomes for rural households. 

Maize is intensely grown in the eastern Uganda districts of Kapchorwa, Mbale, Kamuli, Jinja, and Iganga, the central districts of Masaka and Mubende as well as the western districts of Masindi, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo, Kasese, Kabarole, while the production of finger millet is concentrated in Apac, Lira, Gulu, Kitgum, Iganga, Kamuli, Soroti and Tororo districts. 

“…for now, we want to ensure quality in the production of grains. We have acquired a toxin scrubber machine that will wash away aflatoxin in the grains. By July/August, the issue of aflatoxin will be no more in our grains”, he said. This pronouncement comes at the heels of a recent trade war between Uganda and Kenya arising from the quality of Maize on the Ugandan market. 

Kenya, the largest consumer of maize from Uganda stopped the importation of the crop on account that the levels of mycotoxins in the maize were above safety limits.

Amos Wekesa, a co-director of Pela Commodities Limited in Soroti says they made a decision to invest in Soroti because of the availability of land, which was offered to them by the Uganda Investment Authority, favourable weather conditions, availability of cereals and connectivity to South Sudan and Kenya markets. Wekesa added that the company is in the process of engaging farmers on how best to work to enhance production for the factory.

Annet Iyogil, a resident in Arapai welcomes the establishment of an agro-processing factory in the area with the hope that it will improve prices for the cereals. 

“We depend on cereals for survival these days. But the prices of maize and other foodstuffs are very low and unpredictable. If this factory sets a standard rate for cereals, that would really be good for us”, she said. 

The factory, worth five billion shillings is expected to start operations by the end of April. 

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Foot and mouth quarantine, drought push milk prices up

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A farmer delivers his milk at Nabiswera Collection Centre in Nakasongola

Isingiro, Uganda. Drought and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease have led to a sharp rise in the prices of milk.

In the districts of Isingiro, Sembabule, Kazo and Kiruhura, farmers have seen their incomes plummet as they have nowhere to sell the milk.   Many are giving back the milk to the calves where possible, as even the local people are avoiding its consumption for fear of contracting the disease.

Unfortunately, it is even more expensive than before to treat animals, as private veterinary officers have increased the cost of drugs and treatment. 

Esther Oineababo, a dairy farmer in Kiruhura district says that in the sub-counties which are under quarantine, some people have resorted to smuggling animals and products at night, which she says in increasing the risk of the spread of the FMD.

Allan Aruho, a farmer in Kiruhura Sub-county, Rwomugina Cell says the milk prices have gone a little up, but he decries the middlemen who buy the milk from the farmers and take it to the cooling plants.  Aruho says he cannot take the milk or hire someone to take it to the cooling plant or collection centre, because of the new regulations. 

According to the regulations, the districts have been divided into cells, and each cell allocated only two milk traders or transporters, to limit the spread of the disease. He says that otherwise, he would be getting more than the 800 Shillings for a litre that they now give him amidst the scarcity. 

While in the southwest, they are battling foot and mouth disease, and not-so-harsh weather, in the northern part of the cattle corridor, the drought is becoming almost unbearable, especially for farmers who had improved their stock to hybrids. 

In Nakaseke and Nakasongola, the dams have long-dried up and those who are in the hardest-hit areas have resorted to migrate to areas that are slightly not as dry, or near natural water sources. 

Those who can afford are buying water, but a water tanker of 150,000 litres costs 150,000 Shillings, which can hardly last two weeks because, much of it evaporates from the ponds or dams, due to the heat.

The cheaper option is to look for areas to rent near water sources, at 1 Million Shillings or more for five acres, depending on the location.  This has led to a sharp decline in the productivity of animals. 

An average local cow now produces two to three litres of milk a day from six under normal circumstances, while the hybrid ones are now producing an average of six litres, half the normal capacity. 

Robert Lwanga, a mixed farmer in Nabiswere Sub-county, Nakasongola district says a litre of milk at the farm has gone up to 1,000. But he says half of the price goes to the direct costs like herdsmen wages, water, pasture and treatment. 

Another farmer, Robert Namara at Kagiyo Village sells his milk through Nabiswere Cooperative Society which has a collection centre. He says the cooperative buys a litre at 1,000 Shillings and sells it to buyers from Kampala at 1,100 Shillings, which is exciting but that unfortunately, milk production has fallen by half. 

He says that the farmers hardly have any say on the price of the milk because it is determined by the demand and prices in Kampala, the reason, it can drop to as low as 300 Shillings a litre. 

The picture on the prices in the North is the same as in the quarantine-free areas in the southwest, where the litre currently goes for 1,000 Shillings when the cooperative society, which owns a cooling plant, buys it. 

Loyce Kahwa, a worker at the Rusheere Cooperative Society collection centre says they are now buying as low as 5,000 litres a day, yet they used to buy up to 10,000 before the outbreak of foot and mouth. 

When the tank owners buy the milk at 1,100 to 1,200 Shillings a litre by the time it reaches the wholesale buyers in Kampala, the cost of a litre had gone up 1,450 Shillings and these sell a litre to a vendor at 100 Shillings more. 

David Rugumaho, an owner of a small dairy in Kisenyi says they are finding it hard to get enough milk, as all their sources are affected by different factors, hence the final cost of 1,800 to 2,000 Shillings a litre.

Aruho, the farmer in Kiruhura advises the government to vaccinate whole districts at once which he says would be more effective in controlling the disease. 

He also urges the government to complete the electricity connection projects that they seem to have abandoned, which would help them get coolers closer to the farming areas.

Original Source: independent.co.ug

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