UGANDA – Uganda spent US$18m (Shs49b) on importation of vegetables and certain roots/tubers in the last financial year ended December 2019.

According the Ministry of Finance report, frozen vegetables took the largest share of the import bill with imports worth US$4.6m (Shs17b).

In addition, Uganda spent US$4.2m (Shs15.5b) on onions, garlic, shallots and leeks during the period under review.

Other vegetables largely grown locally but also imported were carrots, salad beetroot and turnips where Ugandans spent over US$3m (Shs11.1b).

Also in this category, Ugandans imported fried leguminous vegetables, cabbages, and cauliflowers among others.

The document which classifies close to 1,500 products imported into during the period, also indicates that the country imported live trees, other parts, bulbs, roots, cut flowers and ornaments. This cost the country a total of US$1.3m (Shs5b) with the biggest import bill going to cuttings and mushroom spawn worth US$1.34m (Shs4.9b).

Uganda is a net importer of vegetables from Asia, especially China, United Arab Emirates and lately Vietnam.

However, there have been efforts by government to drive the import substitution agenda through policy shifts and formulation such as Buy Uganda Build Uganda.

Ms Victoria Ssekitoleko, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda vice chairperson and president of International Women in Coffee-Uganda Chapter, said in reaction to the composition of the import bill, “The Covid-19 pandemic has allowed us to understand and rethink where and when we spend our money. We should take on import substitution.”

Vegetables are a major crop produced in all districts of Uganda. Unfortunately, many vegetables are not specified in detail in the official national data.

The Wageningen Economic Research Report released in 2019 states that onions are among the most widely consumed vegetable crops in Uganda.

“The total area under cultivation is estimated to be 86,500 hactares, with a total production of 344,000 metric tonnes per year,” the report showed.

This places Uganda as the leading producer of onions in East Africa but surprisingly the country imports these vegetables massively too.

The report also places tomatoes as a major crop in Uganda. Most of the tomatoes are bush tomatoes produced in the open field.