By Chris Mugasha
Uganda and other East African community member states may experience a reduction in importation of wheat by 50% once the banana processing plant, the first of its kind in the region, is completed.
According to Rev. Florence Muranga, the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) director, raw Tooke is versatile flour that can be substituted for wheat in the baking industry.
“This is a lucky fight because we are going to get something that can substitute wheat,” she said. Muranga said there is a growing demand of gluten-free products locally and globally explaining that matooke flour has strategically been positioned as a major ingredient in gluten-free products.
She was on Monday speaking at the pass out of a group of entrepreneurs who underwent a three-day training in baking at PIBID in Bushenyi municipality where a banana processing factory is yet to be commissioned.
Muranga said this will not only save the businessmen revenues that they have been sending out, but will also make bread accessible. “It’s a value chain where farmers will fully benefit,” Muranga said.
She further noted that this will help the businessmen who have been grappling with baking because of lack of affordable raw materials.
“We are looking for potential clients who can take tooke flour. Muranga argued that its high time Uganda’s scientists begin to turn science into products.
“We should aim at building new enterprises which can help people to generate more money through value addition,” she explained.
The PIBID’s board and management chairman Frank Mabirizi said value addition is the way to go if poverty is to become history in Uganda.
The Bushenyi district chairman, Willis Bashasha, saluted the PIBID’s scientists for the knowledge they have invested in Bushenyi.
“People had not appreciated what was going on here until when they saw your banana products hitting the market in different forms,” Bashasha said.
He hailed President Yoweri Museveni for allocating more funds towards the completion of the project despite some MPs’ attempts to block the project’s funding.
“It had stalled until our President ordered the release of funds,” he said.
Bashasha criticised the area MP Odo Tayebwa for being among the MPs who have been calling for the suspension of the project.
Recently, at a finance committee of Parliament meeting, Tayebwa reportedly called for the project’s suspension over issues of accountability.
“This facility is here for the people of Uganda not for Museveni, Muranga……so we should all rally behind its success,” Bashasha argued.
He stressed that they were worried of what they were going to put in the structures if Parliament had succeeded in blocking the funding.
After touring the facility, Bashasha said he was impressed with the civil works, water works and construction activities which are going on at the facility hence employing hundreds.
Bashasha, however, urged the PIBID management to keep the district’s leadership updated on what is taking place.
Joan Kenyangi, one of the participants said the baking industry is one of the sectors which has not been given attention saying, “nobody has ever recognised our contribution to society.”