New Vision (Kampala)

18 April 2010

Uganda: Farmers Urged to Adopt Organic Farming

Kampala — UGANDA has the potential to reap from the booming global agricultural market if entrepreneurs adopt organic farming.

"Let us focus on the use of organic fertilisers and minimise the use of synthetic soil additives which limit the sustenance of soil fertility," Charles Rusoke, a consultant at AgroCare Services, said at a conference held at Makerere University in Kampala last week.

"Trends in the global market are changing so fast that we cannot hold on to conventional agricultural practices," Rusoke said.

Organic agriculture is a farming practice that minimises the use of industrially-made fertilisers and pesticides and encourages the consumption of locally- made plant additives like manure.

Current international trade trends highlight a shift in demand for conventionally or synthetic fertiliser-produced products to organically produced ones.

Experts at the conference called on Ugandans to certify themselves as organic farmers and contribute to the country's return to the path of favourable balance of payments by agricultural boosting export volumes.

Moses Muwanga, the managing director of the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda, said the increase in demand for organic products offers Uganda a chance to return to global trade competitiveness.

"Organic markets are the drivers for rural development in Uganda."

"The market for organics is growing fast in some products like cotton, processed fruits and natural ingredients. These offer a premium price that smallholders organised into groups and export companies can benefit from," Muwanga said.

Statistics from the trade ministry indicate an average growth of market for organics at 15% in Europe and 20% in the US. This points potentiality for the East African economy to increase its trade receipts since the two regions remain the country's closest trading partners.

The world market for organic products is estimated to be above $60b (about sh126 trillion).

"Organic farming will offer price premiums to exporters and smallholder farmers resulting into increased incomes and improved livelihoods," Muwanga added.

Some of the organic crops Uganda deals in include fresh pineapples, apples, passion fruits, ginger, sesame, cotton, vanilla and mangoes.

Despite the economic opportunities, limited efforts have been made to market the concept among smallholder farmers.

Data from AgroCare Services indicate that between 2007 and 2008, Uganda's acreage under organic agriculture declined by 17.8% from 220,000 to 180,700 respectively.

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