Ugandan districts that have become Kenya’s new food basket

The two vehicles shown here were part of the 30 Kenyan registered trucks impounded by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officers in April 2021 while attempting to crossing into Kenya through porous points at two villages of Sofia and Marachi in Eastern division of Busia (U), the trucks were fully loaded with bags of maize

Uganda’s Agricultural Officer for the Eastern region Mr Gregory Mbagazi told The Weekly Vision online by phone that his region produces tons of cereals mostly Maize (corn), rice, millet, sorghum, Sim Sim, beans, groundnuts, monkey-nuts and many others. He said, “Kenya is our biggest importer and consumer of our products

By The Weekly Vision

Along the Kenya-Uganda border, trade has for years grabbed headlines sometimes over illicit trade (Magendo), a practice that has overshadowed the importance of the constant food supplies from Uganda play in Kenyan households.

Trailers of all sizes shuttle day and night from various food growing areas in Uganda, depositing their cargo at buying points on Uganda’s side of the border from where the food is then moved across the border on the Kenyan side headed to markets across the country. The food comes mainly from Buganda, Butoro, Busoga, Mbale and many other districts in Uganda which are well endowed with naturally rich agricultural soils compared to many parts of Kenya.

Uganda’s Agricultural Officer for the Eastern region Mr Gregory Mbagazi told The Weekly Vision on the phone that his region produces tons of cereals mostly Maize (corn), rice, millet, sorghum, Sim Sim, beans, groundnuts, monkey-nuts and many others. He said, “Kenya is our biggest importer and consumer of our products, we grow twice a year because of favourable weather conditions and rich soils.”

“That is because our lands are still heavily naturally fertile having suffered minimal erosion, therefore our farmers after ploughing, harrowing and planting their crops weed only once and because of the high fertility crowned with heavy reliable rains, the produce grow very fast ready for harvest in three or so months,”Uganda’s Agricultural Officer for the Eastern region Mr Gregory Mbagazi

He said that, unlike Kenya, Ugandans’ staple food is Bananas locally known as ‘matoke’ and sweet potatoes, this is our main staple food. Our farmers either individually or through cooperatives produce the cereals with an eye on the Kenyan market. They also produce pineapples, oranges, all types of bananas, lemons, tomatoes, onions, water lemons among many others with an eye on the Kenyan huge market.

“That is because our lands are still heavily naturally fertile having suffered minimal erosion, therefore our farmers after ploughing, harrowing and planting their crops weed only once and because of the high fertility crowned with heavy reliable rains, the produce grow very fast ready for harvest in three or so months,” said Mr Mbagazi.

He said that, unlike their Kenyan counterparts who heavily rely on fertilizer for planting and to-dressing their cereals, Ugandans have not yet reached that level coupled with less dense populations on land compared to many parts of the country producing food crops.

The Agricultural Officer said the highly fertile lands are an extension of the same soils that mothered the huge expanse of Congo Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Uganda’s western border but have largely remained virgin because of the many years of political and economic instability that virtually ground production of everything to a halt.

He said an acre of maize in many parts of Uganda produces between 250 to 400, 90-kilogramme bags of the cereal which like others after drying up is packed and trucked off to feed the ever-hungry Kenyan markets – yet their prices are much more cheaper and quality much higher than that produced in many parts of the country.

The Busia Uganda Chamber of Commerce Secretary General Patrick Oteba said: “Many Kenyans come to buy this agricultural produce from us at fairly cheap prices at between Kshs 1500 to 2500 depending on the prevailing market supply and demand forces. We hear they sell it at much higher prices once on the Kenyan side.”

Kenya’s Lake Region Counties Economic Bloc Chambers of Commerce and Industry spokesman Herman Kasili told The Weekly Vision that the current state of affairs has attracted many brokers who exploit and profit from the cheap maize sourced from Uganda. Mr Kasili said brokers flooded the NCPBs silos in the region with products from these sources especially at the time when the board was buying at Kshs 3200 a bag before reducing it Kshs. 2700 a bag. 

He said many maize flour millers from the region had turned to Uganda to get their raw material for processing and packaging into maize flour for sale on the market.

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