Uganda continues to grapple with non-compliance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables exports to the European Union (EU). This results in increased export cost and time due to frequent interception owing to high levels of pesticide residues.
This comes as a result of a temporary revision in the EU regulations for certain exports. The updated regulation calls for increased inspections for hot peppers from Uganda. The new identity and physical checks for hot pepper (capsicum) from Uganda is now 50% from 20% in 2019.
The regulations are updated regularly for certain goods entering the EU from specific countries. This upward revision for Uganda confirms the increased misuse of pesticides by farmers, low compliance to Phytosanitary regulations at pack houses and the airport or a combination of all those factors.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the 5th largest foreign exchange earner for Uganda, with the EU being Uganda’s largest buyer. Therefore, the loss of EU consumer confidence in Uganda’s export could spell a significant loss of national revenue, financial losses for local SME (exporters) and deteriorating livelihood for smallholder farmers and pack house workers (majority are women).
Swisscontact, through the Re-Engineering Uganda’s SPS Inspection for Horticulture Exports (Rush) Project, together with HORTIFRESH-Uganda’s Apex body of fresh fruit and vegetable exporters-organized a dialogue meeting in Kampala to raise awareness about the new EU measures on Capsicum Exports from Uganda. The event attracted agribusiness actors, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and Ministry of Trade, Industries and Cooperatives (MTIC), exporters, smallholder farmers, development partners and donors.
Fred Zake, Chairperson HORTIFRESH in his opening statement noted that the fresh fruit and vegetable value chain offer opportunities as well as challenges that call for collaborations, “Fruits and vegetables value chain is a viable because of the early maturity and fruition. It’s a complicated sector, hence the need to work together to achieve the recommended regulation and directives to make it a lucrative sector”.
Similarly, Pavlos Troulis, the Country Director Swisscontact Uganda emphasised the need to work collaboratively to address the issues that affect export cost and time.
Nadia Cannata, Head of Section, Rural Development at EU-Uganda, clarified that the regulations have not been reinvented but rather revised. She further implored the participants to continue supporting the sector’s improvement journey.
Victoria Sekitoleko, Chairperson, The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), noted that relevant information in regulations are often too technical. She advocated for simpler messages that can easily be comprehended by everyone, specifically by beneficiaries.
Speaking via Zoom, Mr Okisegere Ojepat, a Kenyan agronomist highlighted the risks of overuse of pesticides noting that a strict protocol will be required to regulate the use of pesticides by fresh fruit and vegetable growers.
“Kenya’s success is majorly linked to strict protocols on controlling application of insecticides and pesticides but also uncompromised discipline of the farmers and exporters, mandatory inspection by government inspectors and a strong Public Private Partnership (PPP) that supports a strong monitoring and documentation system at every stage”.
Dr. Caroline Nankinga, Commissioner Assistant Commissioner Phytosanitary and Quarantine, Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), said that the private sector has an important role to play in this fast-paced industry which calls for collaboration with responsible public sector bodies.
“There is need for the private sector to keep in touch with the public sector in order to keep updated on the chemicals and residues not allowed in the country”, she said.
The stakeholders in attendance agreed that immediate action is required in order to achieve the required level of compliance of Uganda’s fresh fruit and vegetable exports to the EU and should include: