Amidst food insecurity and hunger, the Italian Ambassador to Uganda, Massimiliano Mazzanti says Ugandans should maintain their taste buds to eating locally grown food. This will in effect grow the economy.
Mazzanti says Ugandans, especially the younger population are increasingly going for exotic consumer products, yet similar ones are made in the country. This is also affecting the market and niche for Uganda’s indigenous products where it has had a comparative advantage.
Uganda’s main exports to Europe are agricultural commodities led by coffee, fruits and vegetables and flowers, while the country also imports food, especially wheat products. However, Ambassador Mazzanti says Uganda risks increasing her spending on imported food because local production could be affected by a lack of local markets as people prefer foreign products.
He was speaking ahead of the forthcoming International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition (EIMA22) due to take place in Bologna, Italy in November. He also implored Uganda to intensify its quality improvement campaign in production beyond coffee, if it is to be competitive enough in the European markets.
The Ambassador said Uganda has many products that Europe needs but that they will always be blocked from the region for as long as they do not comply with the required EU standards. Mazzanti says that while Uganda’s agricultural products are increasingly being demanded in Europe, the EU Standards will not be compromised especially when it comes to foreign pests.
The event was called to interest Ugandan farmers in attending the show. Older Ugandan farmers link Italian Agriculture machinery to the Fiat Tractor and the Fiat trucks, which would last decades while still in use. However, there are concerns amongst Uganda’s farming community that most of them cannot afford to fly to Italy for an exhibition, considering the level of capital they operate with.
Donald Rugira Kugonza, a livestock and apiary farmer in Uganda says for a farmer in Uganda would rather use the money required for travel to Italy, on direct investments in their farm. Dr Kugonza, also an associate professor at Makerere University want the Italian manufacturers to have outlets in Uganda.
Kugonza also advised industrialists in Europe to copy what China and India are doing; producing machines and equipment which are tailor-made for the Ugandan or African user. He said many Ugandans find European machines quite complex to use and that this is one of the reasons the Asian countries are finding a soft landing in Africa, despite their lower quality products.
He particularly called for partnerships between the Europeans and Ugandans, so as to make their products more affordable. Italy is one of the few countries where Uganda enjoys a trade surplus, with exports in 2020 valued at 130 million dollars, while imports from Italy were worth 78 million US Dollars. Uganda’s main export was coffee, which was valued at about 120 million, with Italy being the largest market for the commodity.
Other questions arose in relation to Italy’s interest in investing in Uganda before Ugandans embrace its products, and especially Italy’s low participation in Uganda’s exhibitions. The exhibition is organized by the Italian Federation of Manufacturers of Machinery, Implements and Components for Agriculture and Gardening Machinery, FederUnacoma. are
Federation president Alessandro Malvolati, said the Italians find it hard to participate in Uganda’s exhibitions, like the Jinja agriculture show because they are held outside the travelling periods of the Europeans.
The Uganda agricultural and trade shows are held in mid- July to August which are holiday seasons in Europe and they will not skip that to come to Uganda. Malvolati said advised Uganda to reconsider and put that in mind while they set dates for such events.