UGANDA – The ministry of agriculture in Uganda has entered into a joint venture with two United Kingdom-based agriculture firms that seeks to boost the agriculture sector through a US$154.68 million (UGX577.6bn) investment.

Through the joint venture, Alvan Blanch Development Company and Colas Ltd will manufacture, supply, and install multiple post-harvest processing systems across the country to help boost crop production and post-harvest handling

Speaking during signing of the deal, Vincent Ssempijja, Agriculture Minister, said the partnership will supplement already-initiated government programmes to help the private sector increase investment in agriculture processing and value addition.

“This partnership is to improve agricultural produce through installation of value addition facilities by establishing collection centres for priority commodities by buying and installing 112 batch drying, cleaning and grading systems of grains, and cereals across the country,” extrapolated.

Additionally, Peter West, British High Commissioner said the partnership will also facilitate Ugandan farmers to improve their productivity and post-harvest handling levels and enable them meet international market standards.

He highlighted that the UK government in the past provided about US$294.59 million (UGX1.1 trillion) in support of infrastructural projects that are key to the agriculture sector.

Mr Ssempijja added that the ministry is currently implementing the five-year Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (ASSP) which started in 2015 to end 2020 aiming at promoting overall nation growth.

ASSP aims to improve access to agricultural markets and value addition for the 12 priority commodities, including maize, beans, rice, tea, coffee, and bananas.

The plan also integrates four other strategic commodities, including oil palm, oil seeds, cocoa, and cotton, reports The East African.

The minister said that poor quality in locally produced commodities such as maize, and coffee have been a major impediment in promoting their competitiveness at the international market.

“There’s need to increase grain processing capacity while improving post-harvest handling and management to match the crop production levels in the country, which will increase farmers access to regional and international markets,” Mr Ssempijja said.

In the next financial year, the ministry through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme plans to commit US$14.73 million (UGX55bn) to set up grain, fruit and feeds processing plants in four districts.

The deal was signed by Pius Wakabi, permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture and Mr Lars Peter Jesensen signed for of Colas Ltd.