Uganda: Don't Dry Produce On Bare Ground - Minister

Government has banned the drying of all agricultural produce on bare ground.

Drying the harvests is a common practice among farmers and dealers.

Mr Vincent Ssempijja, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, said drying produce on bare ground predisposes produce to moulds and affects the quality.

"When the produce is placed on bare ground during open-sun drying, it causes contamination and this is the reason why the quality of our seeds like maize is doubted when we take them to other markets," Mr Ssempijja said while launching the construction works for 17 coffee processing factories at Katwade Village, Masaka District at the weekend.

The minister said police and local leaders, including sub-county chiefs, parish chiefs, and village chairpersons have been directed to enforce the ban and arrest whoever is caught drying the agricultural produce on bare ground.

"Agricultural produce ought to be dried and threshed on clean tarpaulins or mats and this is what we expect local leaders to enforce," he said.

Mr Ssempijja also told farmers that they can grow crops which do not require drying.

"Drying any agriculture produce on bare ground is criminal," he said.

This comes days after both the governments of Kenya banned the importation of maize from Uganda, saying it contains aflatoxins.

The Kenyan government has since lifted the ban but issued tough measures to maize traders.

These include having all maize traders registered, the consignments entering Kenya must be accompanied with certificate of conformity on aflatoxin levels and that traders have to provide details of their warehouses.

Mr Phillip Luyombo Muluya, the chairperson of Kabonera Coffee Farmer's Cooperative Society, said they have already embarked on an operation against farmers who are drying the produce on bare ground.

"As Kabonera Coffee Farmer's Cooperative Society, we are against any form of practice that compromises standards because our dream is to become a model cooperative in the country," he said.

Dr Lawrence Mayiga, the Masaka District production officer, said before the authorities intervene, farmers should police themselves because when prices of agricultural products fall due to poor quality, it affects all of them.

He said drying produce on bare ground, slows down its process of drying, thus leading to quality losses.

Testing of maize

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) officials have started taking samples of Ugandan maize to test for traces of aflatoxins following the ban of the cereal in the Kenyan market.

The team arrived in Busia order District on Saturday and embarked on collecting maize samples from all stores for testing in their laboratory in Kampala.

The UNBS team is also inspecting the state of maize stores and marking all those that have been inspected.

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