By Mark Kawalya
Uganda’s organic food exports are projected to increase by 40% in 2024, according to the National Organic Agriculture Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU). The country’s organic food exports were valued at $159 million in 2023, and the projected increase is expected to bring the value to about $223 million in 2024. Organic foods are produced by farming methods that are environmentally friendly and exclude the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Uganda is one of the leading African countries producing and exporting organic products to the EU, US, Japan, and other export destinations.
The growth is attributed to demand for major crops such as coffee, fruits and vegetables, cocoa, oil crops like sesame, chia, sunflower, soybeans, spices, and vanilla, ginger, chili, and tea herbals. In the domestic market, there is already a demand for cereals and pulses, root crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, and indigenous foods that are purely organic. However, the production of organic products remains marginal, with only about 2% of the country’s demand for organic products being met.
Factors contributing to this include low yields due to heavy reliance on natural weather, traditional methods, and equipment; high certification costs for most smallholders; high logistical costs to export destinations and limited infrastructure for processing and value addition. The recently launched National Organic Agriculture Policy (December 2019) recognizes the huge potential for organic agriculture, both for increased and sustainable food production to safeguard food security as well as for export. Although the sector is currently export-driven, branded organic products are slowly penetrating the shelves of local supermarket chains.
According to Chariton Namuwoza, CEO at NOGAMU, to meet the demand, there is a need for the government and all stakeholders in the organic food value chain to work together.
“We need to focus on the organic production of coffee, for instance, which already has increased demand in the international markets, and get the country positioned as the net exporter of the crop and others as there is a ready market due to the increasing health-conscious consumers world over,” said Namuwoza. NOGAMU has strategized itself at the center of the organic agricultural sector, working with processors and state representatives to facilitate the sustainable growth of the expanding industry.