Over supply and lack of market for cassava is creating miseries for cassava farmers in Teso

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Edward Balidawa

It is reported that the farmers in Kumi and Bukedea are stuck with cassava. We even see an overflow of dried cassava at the weekly flea Bukedea market. This shows the growing predicaments that our village farmers face on account of lack of agro-processing to add value to their produce which would assure them of a wider market and better prices.

Cassava is known to be a key industrial ingredient in many manufactured goods the world over. What is needed is for the raw cassava to be processed into finer raw materials for the industries and that would be a real salvation for the farmers in Kumi, Bukedea and other parts of the country where cassava thrives well.

This brings in the need for the leaders of those areas to have strategic thinking in the form of providing these communities with Agro-processing abilities. It would be commendable if the leaders of this area could invest in establishing a cassava processing plant which can not only consume the cassava that the farmers are growing but can simultaneously offer much-needed employment for the youths of the area. It is these Agro Processing undertakings in the countryside that have managed to propel countries like China and India to their current economic prowess.

Cassava has several uses apart from being eaten as a staple food. Cassava is used in the Pharmaceutical manufacturing of drugs, in the manufacturing of paper and the manufacturing of animal feeds.

According to recent reports, the importers of Manioc (cassava) starch in 2022 was China at 71% of the world imports which amounted to $2.2 billion.

Indonesia accounted for 5.09% ($156 million) while the USA accounted for 4.24% ($130 million) and Malaysia accounted for 3.72% ($114 million).

The above figures clearly show that there is tremendous room for the export of Uganda's cassava once it is processed into cassava flour or starch.

Cottage agro-processing is the solution

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na9xCNZNk10

A cottage cassava processing machine for making cassava flour starts with cleaning, washing, crushing, dehydrating, milling, drying and finally sieving. Such cottage machines are available in India and China at a cost starting from as low as less than $100.

These are machines that can be easily procured and given to clustered village farmers to process their cassava. This would be a remarkable intervention that will serve to prevent the farmers from losing their cassava that otherwise is just rotting in the gardens on account of the lack of market or buyers. It is easier to store, more lasting and easier to transport the cassava flour than the fresh cassava.

These clustered farmers can then aggregate their cassava flour at a particular collecting centre for either further processing like transforming the flour into starch or exporting the flour in its form for better prices.

Right now, Uganda reportedly enjoys an excellent relationship with China the largest potential importer of cassava flour and starch. Therefore, this could be the time for our political leaders to rise and take advantage of such burgeoning friendships for the benefit of the wider masses of our communities. Why would we continue to tolerate what seems to be a perpetual one-way and non-reciprocal trade relationship? Our country currently is blanketed with Chinese products which range from genuine, fake, and counterfeit to utter useless ones, but for which enormous foreign currency is expended. We need to target the production of those semi-raw materials that the Chinese manufacturers need and which they would have otherwise bought from the West.

Certainly, the Chinese market is available, but what is missing are the products that we as a country can sell to the Chinese.

Edward Baliddawa. Former Member of Parliament

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