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Saturday, 23rd July, 2011
AN acute maize shortage has hit the country, leading to skyrocketing prices of grains and flour. A number of institutions and families that rely on maize for food have been heavily affected.
The director for crop resources in the Ministry of Agriculture, Opolot Okasai, confirmed the shortage, pointing out that farmers have sold everything.
?When we get into the harvest season, there is always shortage of maize because farmers sell off old stock,? he said.
Okasai added that the shortage will pass in the coming two to three weeks.
He also warned that poor rains at the beginning of the year have dashed the country?s hopes for a better harvest.
He said Uganda expected to produce between 1.6 ? 1.8 million tonnes. ?We had aimed at surpassing our output last year, but the meteorological department has warned that rains will be lower and poorly distributed,? he said.
?We had long dry spells, so we think at best we will be able to maintain last year?s production,? he added.
According to the Uganda Exports Promotion Board, Uganda earned sh74b from maize in 2009 up from sh46b in 2008. Last year?s production rose by 5.5% from 2009?s output of 1.8 tonnes.
Okasai said production was largely driven by expanding demand in the neighbouring countries.
?The Government is also rapidly extending the reach of farmer advisory services and distribution of high yielding seeds, which boosted output per acre in 2010,? he said.
Uganda consumed 1.2 million tonnes of maize last year, much of it bought by the World Food Programme for relief operations in South Sudan and DR Congo.
Okasai said the Government was pursuing efforts to expand milling capacity in the country to add value and fetch higher earnings from exports of the crop.
A Saturday Vision survey in the maize growing districts of Kapchorwa, Bukwo, Kween, Mbale, Sironko, Bulambuli, Manafwa and Bududa, established that stores were empty. Sebei and Bugisu regions produce700,000 tonnes of maize out of a total national produce of 1.8 million tonnes. According to Okasai, this year?s harvest will drop to 1.6 million tonnes.
Leaders Saturday Vision talked to, said while the drought may have played a role, farmers were also to blame for selling off all old stock.
Uganda consumes an estimated 1.1 million tonnes, while the rest is exported to South Sudan, Eastern Congo and Kenya, due to the attractive prices there.
The Bukwo district chairperson, Wilson Manjara, said farmers had sold all their maize to Kenya, causing a shortage.
The Bukwo NAADS coordinator, Franklin Kityo, added that many farmers in Sebei had sold their maize to Kenya due to bad roads and low prices in Uganda. A 100kg bag of maize goes for sh130,000 in Uganda, while in Kenya, it goes for sh200,000.
In Kapchorwa, the retail price of a kilo of maize is sh1,600 up from sh150 in the past season, while a kilo of flour has jumped to sh2,400 from sh500. In Mbale, a kilo of maize grain had risen from sh800 two months ago, to sh1,300, while flour cost sh1,700 from sh1,200.
Sylvester Ocaatum, the Teso College Aloet headmaster, said they had been hit hard. ?We had budgeted sh1,000 for each kilo of flour. But it is now sh2,400.?
In Kampala, the flour costs between sh1,400 and sh2,600. Sarah Birungi, a trader at St. Balikuddembe Market said a bag of 100kg costs between sh220,000 and sh240,000
However, in Hoima, Kibaale and Kiryandongo, maize prices have dropped following the bumper harvest.
John Murungi, a maize dealer in Kiryatete along Hoima-Fort Portal Road, said a kilo of grain, which cost sh1,300 in May, is now at sh700. In Kibaale, it costs sh600, down from sh1,200, according to Edirisi Tibenda of Kagadi market.
By Frederick Womakuyu, Violet Nabatanzi, Raymond Baguma, Saudha Nakandha, Robert Atuhairwe : The New Vision Newspaper
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