Magazine article International Trade Forum

European Buyers Meet Organic Farmers in Uganda

Magazine article International Trade Forum

European Buyers Meet Organic Farmers in Uganda

Article excerpt

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. …

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