Meg Jaquay, the vice-president of the American Chamber of Commerce, Uganda, in a recent interview, said that increasing use of non-organic crops, coupled with low quality agricultural products and poor packaging are partly responsible for the country’s failure to fully benefit from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative.
In May 2000, along with other African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda sent over 6,500 products including agricultural animal products to enter the US tax and quota free.
While Kenya exported goods worth $389.5m (about sh1 trillion) to the US in 2012 and Tanzania $114m (about sh314.4b), Uganda only exported goods worth $34.5m (about sh95.1b).
In 2013, Uganda’s exports to the US were estimated at $47m (about sh129.6b), up from $34.8m (about sh95.7b) in 2003. US exports to Uganda on the other hand were $125m (about sh344.7b) during the year.
Business analysts said unlike Kenya or Tanzania, Uganda failed to establish an AGOA strategy to mobilise and guide those producing goods through the initiative. Kenya is an industrialised nation, while Uganda’s comparative advantage lies in agriculture, especially organics.
It is estimated that Uganda has over 400,000 internationally certified organic farmers, growing cotton, coffee, sesame, as well as fruits such as pineapples, bananas, mangoes, jack-fruit, apple, passion fruits and avocado. The products are exported to Europe, USA and Asia, among other countries.
By 2013, Uganda had around 350,000 hectares of land under organic farming covering more than 2% of agricultural land.