Agriculture contribution to GDP registers a decline
Agriculture sector growth declined from 2.6% in 2010 to 0.2% in 2012, before recovering to 3.6% in 2013 and 2.9% in 2014. This has consequently affected the sector’s contribution to the GDP, declining from 25.4% in 2010 to 23% in 2014. This is indicated in the agriculture minister’s statement to the committee on agriculture.
This unfortunate state of the sector that employs about 70% of our country’s population was revealed by the sector Minister, Vicent Bamulangaki Ssempijja as he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture on 9th August 2016.
The minister appeared before the committee to give an overview of the State of the Agriculture sector. He explained that for the last five years, the sector’s average annual growth rate has been performing poorly at 2.2%. This is despite the increase in production of agricultural commodities. For the last five years, oil seeds registered the highest increase of 79.7%; cocoa 57.9% increase, milk 40.4%, coffee 26.9%, tea 24.8% and maize 20.8%. There has also been increase in agricultural export earnings for instance, cocoa foreign exchange earnings increased by 81.7%, beans 67.6%, rice 62.6%, fruits and vegetables 52.4%, maize 25.9% and tea 24.08%.
The truncated poor performance of the sector is attributed to a number of challenges affecting the sector; climate change, low usage of fertilizers, price fluctuation on the world market, minimal agricultural mechanization in the country on addition to low public investment in the sector.
Although the potential irrigable area in Uganda being approximately 202,000 hectares, only 40% is being utilized. The total renewable water resources in Uganda are over 66km3, only 22km3 are being utilized.
The level of agricultural mechanization in the country is still minimal, compared to many sub-Saharan countries. About 90% of agriculture is reliant on hand tools and the remaining 10% are the ones who access mechanised agriculture which is predominantly used for primary land penetration (8% utilise draft animal power and 2% use tractors). During campaigns, President Museveni (Presidential Candidate then) promised the electorate to supply them about 6m household with hand hoes. This was estimated to cost UGX 18bn.
There has been low fertilizer use which has affected production. The average fertilizer use in Uganda is estimated at 1 kilogram per hectare per year of applied nutrients compared to estimated nutrient depletion of over 80kg per ha per year. To address this, the minister informed the committee that Cabinet passed the Fertilizer Policy early this year and they target increased average use of fertilizer to 50 kg per ha per year and reduce nutrient depletion to 30 kg per ha year.
However, the Tororo Phosphate project which is expected to produce 300,000 tons of phosphates fertilizers, 2 million tons of residual soil and 200,000 tons of sulfuric acid annually to support the sector is most likely to stall. The Inspector General of Government recently directed the Energy and Mineral Development Minister, Irene Muloni to cancel a mining licence granted to a Chinese firm, Hui Neng, to extract phosphates from Osukuru hills in Tororo District over fraudulent tendering process.
Another challenge facing the sector is the lack of availability of adequate quality farm inputs to satisfy the demands across the country. Only, about 15% of crop area in Uganda was planted with improved seed in 2014. Under the National Seed Strategy, the ministry target to increase an additional 20% of the planted area by 2019/2020. However, this is still less. On this, Members of Parliament called upon the minister and his team to increase their inspection and monitoring of the seedlings suppliers under the Operation Wealth Creation Program.
Members of Parliament also decried the low funding to the agriculture sector despite employing biggest number of the population. They described the piecemeal budget allocation to the sector as the main reason for the stagnated production in the sector.
At least from 2010, the agricultural sector budget has been below 5% of the national budget. This is contrary to the Maputo protocol’s threshold of 10%, to which Uganda is a State Party. In FY2016/17, the agricultural share of the national resource envelope is UGX 832.42bn representing a meagre 3.12% of the UGX 26.3tn national envelope.
With over 70% Ugandans employed in the agriculture sector whose production is mainly subsistence and largely contributing to the 19.7% population below the poverty line. Government ought to increase public investment in the sector to realize more productivity.