By Zurah Nakabugo
Although Uganda has the world’s youngest population of over 78 percent below 30 years, and their best food is chips, the country still has bad Irish potatoes that don’t meet global quality and safety standards to make chips in bigger restaurants like KFC, State Minister for Agriculture , Fred Kyakulaga has said .
Kyakulaga, said that most farmers attributed the cause of bad quality Irish potatoes to available potato seeds in the country, poor farming methods and infertile land in some areas which can’t produce good potatoes.
State minister for Agriculture Kyakulaga
“This is why bigger restaurants in Uganda like KFC, Café Javas are importing Irish potatoes for making chips and crisps due to high demand, since the variety of potatoes available are not tasty for chips and also not suitable for machine peeling and cutting into chips and crisps. The potatoes also don’t have good size and shape for chips,” Kyakulaga, said.
Uganda which has a population of over 47 million, also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, which can grow potatoes and earn a leaving from chips and crisps.
Dennis Ngabirano, the CEO, Sumz Food Industries, Yona Baguma, Director General NARO and Bulegeya Komayombi, the National Chairperson UNAPO
Kyakulaga also said, Ugandan farmers, have a challenge of failing to supply potatoes consistently to bigger restaurants and companies like Sumz which make crisps, and this retards development.
“Currently we estimate to be producing about 800,000 metric tons of Irish potatoes in Uganda annually but the demand for potatoes is about 2 million tons which is high. This leads to bigger restaurants and companies importing potatoes,” he said.
The Minister was opening the national potatoes stakeholders’ meeting in Kampala oraganised by Uganda National Potato Organisation (UNAPO) Secretariat.
Kyakulaga said, since potato is becoming a very important crop in our economy in terms of food and income security, the meeting aimed at inviting different stake holders in the potato industry to discuss the potato value chain and agree on how to develop the potato sub- sector.
The Minister also said the bigger restaurants in Uganda are also importing potato frozen chips for making chips since the local varieties of Irish potatoes are not meeting the demands of consumers.
“Currently the farmers have started growing a potato called ‘oblong’ and ‘sagita’, which will be suitable for making chips and crisps,” he said.
Dennis Ngabirano, the Chief Executive Officer of Sumz Food Industries Ltd said, “most times we don’t purchase Ugandan potatoes which don’t meet our international quality standards for making chips for crisps.”
Dr. Dennis Ngabirano, the CEO, Sumz Food Industries Ltd – Copy
“Like some potatoes supplied to us, has high sugar content, which most farmers have failed to control and this is not good for chips,” he said.
Ngabirano said, they also have a challenge of farmers not being reliable and stable in supplying Irish Potatoes which retards business.
“The potatoes with high sugar levels have a problem of banning out when they are deep fried and they can’t produce good chips and crisps,” he explained .
Yona Baguma, the Director General NARO, advised farmers and stake holders involved in potato sub-sector to consistently produce potatoes of same size on the market which can easily be bought by bigger restaurants and hotels annually.
“We must encourage farmer organisations to reach many farmers for extension services and market the produce. We also urge them to use the right variety of potatoes to suit the demands of consumer tests and grow potatoes that are resistant to drought, pests and diseases,” he added.
Bulegeya Komayombi, the National Chairperson UNAPO advised farmers to acquire smart agriculture techniques, use automated water systems and fertilizer application systems to yield good quality potatoes that compete on the international market.
“We need export potato and stop importing. We are now exporting potatoes worth US$2 to 4 million from regional market per year,” he said.
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