Uganda – Wheat Import Market of $100 Million
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Wheat products are some of the most consumed in Uganda, yet among farmers, it is one of the less cultivated crops. Barely a day passes without most Ugandans consuming Wheat products, especially in the urban areas. Wheat is a high-elevation crop, with barley, arabica coffee, and potatoes. Neither is a native crop to Uganda.
Uganda is a member of the East African Community. According to researchers, Wheat was introduced to Uganda at the beginning of the 20th century. The domestic consumption of Wheat products has been on a steady rise. In 2010, 131,000 metric tons of Wheat were consumed in Uganda; today, the consumption stands at 480,000 metric tons.
Wheat has become increasingly important not only at the domestic level but also in the industrial sector. Yet the country remains a net Wheat importer to meet its domestic demand. Wheat production in Uganda was 20,000 tons in 2018, down from 24,000 tons the previous year.
According to Stephen Wobibi, a senior technician of crop husbandry at Buginyanya Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (BugiZARDI) in Bulengeni, eastern Uganda, there is potential for a significant increase in production in the highlands as well as expanding the production area in the mid-altitude areas.
Currently, Wheat is only limited to altitudes above 1,500m above sea level, especially on the slopes of Mt Elgon and Mt Rwenzori and parts of Kabale, Kapchorwa, Kabale, Rubanda, Kisoro, Bushenyi, Fort Portal, Mbarara, and Bundibugyo by small scale farmers. Some mechanization is present in the Sebei region, where farmers use combined harvesters.
Wobibi, among the researchers at BugiZARDI, says they are in the advanced stages of releasing mid-altitude varieties to go beyond the traditional highland growing areas. The targeted zones range between 1,000 and 1,500m above sea level. “We eat more than what we produce. We look toward sustainability by growing more Wheat and reducing the import demand,” Wobibi said during the 18th Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic at Bulengeni.
“More land is available in lowlands, and that forms the basis of our research, yet mechanization is also difficult in highland areas,” Wobibi says. Buginyanya is the only institute in Uganda that breeds Wheat and barley. They first released the improved varieties in 2015 and have three varieties available to farmers: Naro I, II, and III. Candidate varieties are also tested to determine their suitability in semi-arid conditions and heat tolerance.
These varieties are resistant to UG99, yellow rust, and leaf rust and high yielding with a yield rate of 2.5 – 3 tons per hectare. Farmers may want to establish a stand with no less than 1.5 million seedlings on the acre for optimum production. If the germination percentage for Wheat seed lots is 90 percent, farmers must plant nearly 1.7 million seeds per acre to have 1.5 million seedlings. Since seed size can vary considerably for Wheat, it is essential to calibrate the drill for each seed lot.
Old practices persist among Wheat growers, but Wobibi says the most important thing is to clear the bush and prepare the land. To Wobibi, a fine seedbed is crucial, and planting must occur before the onset of the rains to allow the weed trash to be dry.
Wheat Import in Uganda
In 2021, Uganda imported Wheat worth $99.6 million, becoming the world’s 77th largest importer of Wheat. In the same year, Wheat was Uganda’s 9th most imported product. Uganda imports Wheat primarily from: Argentina ($37 million), Australia ($32.9 million), Russia ($19.8 million), Lithuania ($4.16 million), and Ukraine ($3.07 million). In 2018, the average tariff for Uganda in Wheat was 3.95%.
Other sources: MONITOR
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