Cuba ready to buy Ugandan maize

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The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives says the Cuban government has placed an order for Uganda to supply a minimum of 100,000 metric tonnes of maize every year and other assortment of grains.

While launching the Industry Self-Regulation Scheme for Uganda’s Grain sector last week, Ms Geraldine Ssali, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said during the just-concluded Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) and G77 plus China (G77+China) summits, the Cuban government presented a list of food items they need from Uganda and the most urgent is maize.

“Cuba wants a lot of corn from Uganda. They presented a whole list of items they need during the G77 and NAM summits, but we do not know what they are giving us in exchange for the corn. They are also ready to help us with the maritime route via Mombasa or Dar es Salaam for the logistics support,” she said.

While launching the Industry Self-Regulation Scheme last week, Ms Ssali said this will help to regulate the numerous players in the grain sector in the country and it will also feed into the 2015 National Grain Policy, which is under review. This will ensure that all actors in the value chain from the farm to the fork are in check to help with compliance with standards for food leaving the country, which she said has suffered a lot of setbacks from various export markets due to phytosanitary standards.

She lauded the Grain Council of Uganda for spearheading the development and implementation of the guidelines to police all actors involved in the sector instead of waiting for the government to enforce the standards.

She further said whichever country they always visit, Ugandan food is in demand and the Competitions Act, which President Museveni assented to last week, is also going to help with addressing the unfair trade practices, which have been happening in the country.

Ms Carolyne Nankinga, the assistant commissioner for Phytosanitary and Anti-Quarantine in the Department of Crop Inspection and Certification, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, said they are looking at how the actors in the grain sector are planning to put in place a code of conduct for industry self-regulation.

She added that this will bring together all players in the grain sector to put together practices they will follow and comply with to make sure that whatever grain they produce for trading and consumption meets the standards.

“All along, these people have not been regulating themselves and this is long overdue because they could not organise themselves. This is what we did for the flour, fruits, seed, and vegetable sectors. By the time the government comes to see what they are doing, they would have done most of the groundwork,” she added.

The chairman of the Grain Council of Uganda, Mr Robert Mwanje, said they came up with the guidelines to address quality issues following the 2020 statistics, which showed that out of the 4.8 metric tonnes of maize produced, 40 percent went to waste as some of it had aflatoxins, goat droppings and stones.

“We are saying we shouldn’t have anyone coming to clean for us our house. Throughout the entire value chain, are you fumigating the right way? Are you using the right pesticide? Are you drying the grain well? When the regulator comes, they have to just endorse the quality and approve it for both the local and international market,” he said.

Ugandan maize has previously been denied access to the Kenyan and South Sudan markets due to alleged aflatoxins, which have been attributed to unregulated trade where traders buy unprocessed maize grain from different farmers with different post-harvest practices that end up contaminating the maize and making it unsuitable for both human and animal consumption.

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