Six maize ware houses under the Grain council of Uganda (TGCU) have signed a code of conduct which will govern their conduct in the way grain hubs handle grains right from the farm level until they get to the market.
The self-regulatory code of conduct prescribes activities that ware house operators need to undertake while handling maize during storage, and also guides ware houses management practices that ensure that that their practices are in accordance with EAC quality standards.
Some of the activities include quality checks at village level before the grain gets to the warehouse, checking the moisture content so that only grains with acceptable moisture content is stored, hygiene of the grain, level of chemical residues, broken kennels, stacking, packaging among others.
This is according to the executive director of the TGCU, Henry Musisi, while witnessing the signing of the codes of conduct by grain hub processors at the Golf course hotel in Kampala on Wednesday.
"Ugandan grain still has challenges despite the fact that Uganda is the only country in East Africa which perennially produces surplus grain to sell but this has been branded as the poorest in the region as such can only be fed on chickens," he said.
The six ware houses that signed include Joseph Initiatives in Masindi, Aponye Uganda Limited, Kamwenge Community Devt Limited,Nu AFGRI Uganda Limited (Nwoya) AFGRI KAI Uganda Limited Kiryandongo and Namunkekere Agro Processing Industries Limited in Nakaseke.
Musisi added that Uganda maize grain now attracts lower prices compared to the Zambian grain which some traders are contemplating to import from Zambia once it opens up its grain market.
"We think that the intervention will helps us lift Uganda off the bottom of the market place and take it to the top. Also volumes of quality grain will increase bringing in more money in the sector for all of us to benefit from it," Musisi said.
The upgrading of the warehouse hubs was part of the large program supported by the UKaid through the Department of International Development (DFID) through Trademark East Africa (TMEA) to the tune of $431,211.
In addition to development of warehouse hubs the program aimed at linking 7000 farmers to certified ware houses, increase awareness of grain quality and strengthen maize value chain coordination an advocacy.
Officiating at the event, the country manager of TMEA, Moses Sabiiti said their aim is to improve business competitiveness at National and regional level, in addition to the opening up EAC trade by removing bottlenecks such poor quality products and lack of lack of standards.
According to Sabiiti, Over 60% of household in Uganda are into maize production and 50% of the producers are women. He adds that Kenya now has a huge maize shortage because on average they consume 40 million bags of maize but can produce only 30%.
"This presents a big opportunity to Ugandan grain traders to address the gap by supplying the 10 million bags and this could fetch them more money .But this can only be achieved with proper conduct of the trade using the code,' said Sabiiti.
He added that as TMEA they have been taking development partners to the grain market in Busia grain market but the main challenge that has been observed is poor standards, due to poor handling among others.
"So poor standards kill the benefits to a producer, cannot reduce poverty therefore it is an optune moment that the sector is thinking about quality around ware housing to be able to deal with issues like moisture content, aflatoxins ,pests and diseases and whatever happens in those ware houses,' Sabiiti said.