IT is okay to pack your nicely roasted coffee beans in neatly trimmed dry banana fibers. It could even work as a marketing gimmick; â€œNaturally grown coffee packed natureâ€™s way.â€ But it is certainly not okay to pack your high quality honey in a â€œretiredâ€ Uganda Waragi bottle.
Yet that is exactly what many honey producers and processors in Uganda are doing today. That is one way of losing customers because there is no way a Muslim is going to buy honey packed in a bottle that once contained alcohol.
You only need to visit the honey section in one of the big supermarkets in Kampala, to realise how far we as a country have to go in the area of packaging our agro products. For the imported honey, from the quality of the containers to the way the labels are designed and the inscriptions on the labels, you can see a package carefully put together to convince the customer that they are buying quality.
On the same shelf, you find our local honey, which might be of the same or even superior quality, looking very miserable. The containers are bulging in the sides and leaking around the cover. Some of the labels are handwritten and are full of spelling mistakes.
The packaging problem starts right at the farm. You find farmers packing their produce in old dirty gunny bags that should not contain anything meant for human consumption. But a farmer would rather recycle a gunny previously used to carry manure or charcoal, than part with sh500 to buy a new one.
Then there is the problem of shortage of packaging material. The packaging industry in Uganda is still in its infancy. Most of the packaging material used in the country is imported. This makes it very expensive for the ordinary farmer. The Government needs to come in and make conditions favourable for investors to get into that sector.
Andrew Ndawula Kalema
Tip of the week
Before buying honey, check its quality by turning the container in which it is packed upside down. If there are impurities like ash at the bottom of the container, they will start moving about. They will have a different colour, probably darker than the honey.
From the Editor