Agriculture ministry needs Shs10bn more to fight crop diseases and pests

The ministry of agriculture, animal industry and fisheries says it requires about Shs12.5bn to effectively sustain the fight against a plague of crop-destroying fall armyworm caterpillars that have ravaged gardens in the countryside.

Currently, the ministry has a budget of Shs2.5b for combating pests and diseases.

A report of the Parliamentary committee on agriculture, animal, industry and fisheries on the ministry’s policy statement for the next financial year puts the “annual loss in priority crops due to pest and diseases” to $35m-$200m for banana yields, $60m-$80m for cassava, $10m for cotton, and $8m for coffee.

Coffee and cotton are among the country’s top cash crops alongside tea, tobacco, cocoa, sugar cane, and exported flowers and vegetables.

Coffee exports increased from 3.6 million (60 kg) bags in the 2015/16 valued at $352m to 4.2 million bags in 2016/17 valued at $478m, which is far below the ministry’s target of exporting 20 million bags of coffee per year by 2025.

The committee report indicates that the ministry plans to invest “in controlled research especially to develop biological coping mechanisms for the fall army worm and other pests and diseases” in addition to ensuring that appropriate pesticides are available in the market at affordable prices through among others partnerships with the private sector.

The report further indicates that for an effective fight against pests, including for livestock disease control, the ministry needs about Shs34.5bn out of which only Shs11bn is available.

“For livestock disease control, MAAIF will continue testing the various tick resistance cleansing acaricides in the different application zones and through NARO support the ongoing research in developing acaricides that are suitable for Uganda’s conditions,” the report reads in part.

The agriculture sector was allocated Shs862bn in the next fiscal year, down from Shs865bn in 2017/18. This is far below the government’s reaffirmed African Union commitment of 10% of the national budget and the second National Development Plan (NDPII). According to NDPII the sector should be allocated at least Shs1 trillion.

The committee observed that Ugandan farmers are prone to postharvest losses due to inadequate handling and storage practices at the household level.

Farmers lose more than 30% of their crops every year to insects, pests, mold and moisture. The biggest cause is because farmers rely on sun-drying to ensure that crops are well-dried before storage as a preservation method.