By Our Reporter
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA– Kenya has temporarily lifted the ban on Uganda’s maize but new revelations indicate that the woes are far from over.
After slapping the ban about a week ago due to what Kenyan authorities described as high levels of aflatoxins in Uganda’s maize, Uganda was set to lose Shs447 due to loss from maize exports.
The news of the temporary lifting on the ban sounds good, but there is still worry unless government sorts out farmers grievances.
Farmers who spoke at the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Uganda organized press briefing said the maize from Uganda was banned in Kenya due to issues of standards and these issues must be addressed before we can think of a ‘honeymoon’.
“I am a farmer, who has seen it all. We are pressed as farmers. We inject in a lot of money yet reap little. The price of maize needs to be standardized so as to boost morale among farmers to ensure quality,” said Ali Serugo a farmer from Kamuli.
He told the press at PELUM Uganda offices in Kampala that Government needs to support farmers with solar-powered driers, seeds and storage facilities for their produce.
“Unless this is done, farmers will continue to spray maize to dry fast so as get money for fees, and will dry the maize on the floor and store them where they keep goats and chicken because they can’t afford the tarpaulins,” said Serugo.
He said some years ago the farmers in Kamuli decided to stored their maize in a private warehouse as they waited for the price to rise but the outcomes were unbelievable.
“We stored maize worth shs12m, but when the time came to sell, the owner of the silos was demanding shs8m for storage. We paid shs2m to the workers and remained with sh2m. This was a huge loss to us as farmers,” he said.
The PELUM Uganda Board Chairperson Dr Christopher Kyeswa commended the government for the negotiation that saw a lift on the ban but called for rigorous implementation of the standard laws. “Much as the ban has been lifted, the issues of quality standards of Uganda’s agricultural products still persist and need concerted efforts to systematically address them,” said Kyeswa.
PELUM Uganda that brings on board over 60 members called upon the East African Partner States to strictly implement the standardization and Quality assurance pacts signed between the states.
“Uganda lacks legislation on food and nutrition. We, therefore, recommend that government through parliament fast tracks the passing of the food and nutrition bill to address the health challenges as a result of aflatoxins,” he said.
Dr Kyeswa called upon the government to revive and strengthen cooperatives that would be responsible in ensuring standards of all the crops harvested.
“Those days of Cooperatives farmers would bring their coffee and cotton to the Cooperative Societies, but those found lacking in terms of quality would be rejected. We didn’t have issues of quality then, we can still do the same through cooperatives,” he said.
He asked the farmers and traders who are solely responsible for this mess by ignoring the set good practices to style up. “Farmers should embrace chemical-free farming, like organic farming, and avoid practices like spraying of maize to dry faster,” said Kyeswa.
He advised farmers to embrace good post-harvest handling practices by acquiring silos, pic bags, drying yards, and tarpaulins for good grain quality.
Margaret Masudio Ebere a farmer from Adjumani called upon government to revive cooperatives to ensure quality standards of produce.
“As farmers, we need technical guidance from especially the standards body, UNBS regarding quality. Most farmers don’t even know what aflatoxins are,” she said.
She lashed out at the standards implementing agencies of government for not being at the grass root where the issues emerge from.