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    European Buyers Meet Organic Farmers in Uganda


    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © ITC/ C. Ohlsson A Ugandan organic farmer hand-pollinates vanilla flowers. In addition to spices, Uganda exports organic coffee, cocoa, cotton and fruit.

    European importers of organic products meet Ugandan exporters and farmers face to face on ITC's Buyers' Tour.

    Judith Chemutai has just started working as a field officer for Kawacom Ltd, one of Uganda's major coffee exporters. She works near Kapchorwa in eastern Uganda, where some 4,700 farmers grow certified organic coffee on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Fifteen field officers advise farmers on organic production techniques. Judith and her recently employed colleagues are taking part in a training programme to upgrade their skills on organic coffee production. "I haven't worked since I got married," says Judith. "Now I look forward to getting my first salary. I will buy a mobile phone when I do."

    A growing organic sector

    The coffee growers of Mount Elgon are just one example of Uganda's growing organic sector. In 2005, the value of organic exports was over $6 million. Most organic producers are smallholders. Export companies often rely on gathering a large number of farmers to produce the quantities sought by buyers in Europe and elsewhere. With producers spread out over large areas, the poor rural infrastructure makes collection of products, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, problematic.

    Lack of funds to invest in processing and storage facilities is another bottleneck for export companies.

    Uganda is a landlocked country, so products need to be transported by either air or road to ports in neighbouring countries. Both options are expensive - to transport a container by road from Kampala to Mombasa, Kenya costs almost as much as the transport by sea from Mombasa to European ports.

    In spite of these constraints, Uganda has made a name for itself as an exporter of organic products, and Ugandan companies are present at major trade fairs such as Biofach in Nuremberg, Germany. Yet many European importers are nervous about getting involved in business in Africa. Establishing the first connection face to face can improve trust between the parties.

    Connecting buyers to landlocked exporters

    ITC provides support to the organic sector in Uganda, and in late April it set up a Buyers' Tour with the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda. Seven European buyers interested in importing organic products from Uganda met exporters, farmers and key stakeholders in the organic sector during a five-day tour around the country.

    The buyers first visited government institutions in Kampala and Entebbe to discuss the possibilities and constraints of organic exports. The Buyers' Tour then gave exporting companies the opportunity to meet buyers in the field, where they could see the production first-hand. Buyers visited export companies and farmers producing fruit, spices, coffee, cotton and sesame seeds.

    At the end of the tour, buyers and representatives of the exporting companies met up in Kampala, where they had the chance to network. One buyer had already filed an application for an import permit for organic products from Uganda, and will place an order for a first pallet of pineapples from an exporter identified during the tour as soon as the permit has been issued.

    Organics incentives for farming families

    In Uganda there is high demand for organic products. Organics also help smallholders into the export market, as they can share the cost of certification across large groups.

    "I think it is better for me and my family not to eat food that has been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides as in conventional agriculture," said one farmer who grows organic sesame seed. "Now I grow all crops on my farm organically."

    A Mount Elgon coffee grower explained why he became involved in organic production. "A good friend of mine told me about the organic project and Kawacom. With the price premium, I will be able to send my children to a better school." He has just started the conversion to organic production, with Judith, the Kawacom field officer, as an adviser. With her regular visits and guidance, the farm can be certified as organic next year.

    ITC is scaling up assistance to the organics sector in Uganda in 2007, in partnership with the Uganda Export Promotion Board and the National Organic Agriculture Movement of Uganda. ITC is also working closely with the organic sectors in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

    For more information, contactkasterine@intracen.org orohlsson@intracen.org or visithttp://www.intracen.org/organics