Minister Underscores Standards, Farmer Cooperatives at Private Sector Expo

The State Minister for Cooperatives, Frederick Ngobi Agume speaking at the Private Sector Trade facilitation Expo.

The State Minister for Cooperatives, Frederick Ngobi Agume on Tuesday opened the 13th Private Sector Trade facilitation Expo at UMA grounds that seeks to provide business linkages between private sector and government to interface.

“This forum is for all of you (exhibitors) to share business information especially for the small scale enterprises to remain competitive as government opens up more trade opportunities like COMESA,” said Hon Ngobi.

However, according to Ngobi the biggest challenge in Uganda has been preparing entrepreneurs to understand the market standards and acts that has led to the influx of substandard goods in the economy.

Minister Ngobi revealed that lack of safety and production of substandard goods as those witnessed in the Ugandan market are eating away market shares.

It’s on this basis that Ngobi applauded the work of UNBS and Uganda Export Promotion Board that are striving hard to match local made products to the required standards.

He echoed his concern for the need to form producer groups that will work collectively to advance challenges faced in the various sectors represented at the launch.

“Value addition without production groups is useless, you need to unite and work as a team because then you are able to monitor standards amongst yourselves even before government comes in to give a helping hand.”

He cited the current fall in the prices of maize as one that could have been avoided.

Ngobi reaffirms that about 30% of value is lost during post harvest handling due to poor storage and lack of unity among farmers to speak one language.

However, for the low price of maize, government has earmarked over 100billion shillings credit line through Bank of Uganda to be accessed by traders in order to buy maize from farmers at a capped price of shs 500 per kilo.

But access to the said fund according to Ngobi has remained a big challenge for the traders. He said his office is trying to investigate why even with receipt of collateral, traders have not yet accessed the funds.

His revelation comes a month after the Minister of Trade, Amelia Kyambadde announced that government’s intervention with Shs 100 billion to help improve the prices of maize after farmers’ complaints.

As farmers wait for the prices to stabilize, government has to find ways to ensure traders and grain millers have appropriate storage facilities and warehouses to ensure quality and safety from aflotoxins.

Gideon Badagawa, the executive director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda advised government that besides credit, for conducive business environment, there was need for it to soften the tax regime.

“Young entrepreneurs in whatever sector they decide to venture need to be given grace time to nurture their businesses, otherwise lack of tax free periods is forcing many youth out of meaningful ventures thus the continued collapse of businesses before their first birthdates,” Badagawa explained.

As such Badagawa revealed that as people exchange trade and investment information, some respective government ministries like URA, UNBS among others have been invited to be part of the event to share more highlights on policy, laws and guide on access to market.

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