Uganda’s trade has been negatively impacted as effects of the lockdown implemented by several countries to stem the spread of Covid-19 begin to take root.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde on Tuesday revealed that Uganda’s exports declined from USD 383.62 million in January, 2020 to USD 352.91 million in February 2020.
The Minister who was addressing the media about measures the trade ministry is implementing in light of the Covid-19 outbreak also said imports had declined.
“Imports declined from USD 711.99 million in January, 2020 to USD 701.34 million in February, 2020 and USD 593.79 Million in March, 2020,” Kyambadde said.
She however noted that Uganda has registered a number of achievements during this crisis including reduction in commodity prices.
“The hike in prices which occurred at the time of the anticipated lockdown was as a result of panic buying and increasing demand especially in the Kampala Metropolitan area. However, the current statistics show that the prices of various commodities are normalizing countrywide. For example, a kilo of sugar has gone down to Shs3600 from Shs6,000; a kilo of salt from Shs5,000 back to Shs3,000; cooking oil is down to Shs5,000 a litre from Shs7,000; a kilo of maize flour is now in the range of Shs2,200 – 3,000 per kg from Shs6,00. This is partly due to low demand and low purchasing power, and availability of other food substitutes like matooke, cassava, whose prices have remained stable – thanks to the continued free movement of commodities,” she said.
Kyambaďde She however said the price of beans has remained high, ranging from Shs4,500 to Shs6,000 a kilo.
“There is scarcity of beans because farmers are keeping them for their own consumption,” she said.
The Minister revealed that online business had grown and that a salt factory was going to be put up with a production capacity of 192,000 metric tonnes per year.
“Many Ugandans have embraced e-commerce and this has seen many online businesses flourishing,” the Minister said, adding: “All factories producing essential commodities remained operational. 38 companies producing 43 brands of hand sanitizers and disinfectants have been certified by UNBS.”
President Museveni had earlier on, in his address, advised that local manufacturers take interest in making facial masks.
“We cannot lockdown forever. We need to devise means for our people’s safety if say, public transport was to be re-opened. How do we do that without our people accessing masks? Our manufacturers need to take interest in this,” the President said.
Now, Mrs Kyambadde has revealed during the media briefing yesterday that a local manufacturer was making masks under the supervision of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and the Ministry of Health.
Cross-Border Movement of Trucks
On cross-border movement of truck drivers, the Minister said Uganda had taken a decision that the entire crew does not exceed two.
“Hitherto, three passengers have been allowed to move as part of the truck crew. In an effort to stem the threat from this route and following guidance by H.E. the President during his address on 19th April 2020, we have consulted key stakeholders in the industry and agreed that passengers in the truck must not exceed two – the truck driver and one other person. Trucks will be electronically monitored and the crew must adhere to the Public Health Guidelines in place, and not mix with the locals along the transit routes. There will be designated stop points for international cargo trucks,” she said.
The Minister revealed that cargo trucks carrying exports to Rwanda are being allowed to enter through Mirama Hills, but there are reports of denial of entry to Ugandan trucks transiting to Burundi.
“We will engage Rwanda at the political level to allow Ugandan trucks transit to Burundi, after all we are allowing theirs to transit through Uganda,” she said.
Uganda’s cases of Covid-19 rose to 61 on Tuesday after another Kenyan truck driver tested positive. So far, 5 cargo truck drivers have tested positive.