Local processors of food products have been urged to reduce the importation of wheat and take up local flours as substitutes in order to address the rising prices of wheat and wheat products.
The call was made last Wednesday during a Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) dialogue held at Protea Hotel, Kololo in Kampala.
The meeting came at the time when wheat commodity prices have risen and continue to rise hence negatively impacting the lives of the population in form of high prices for financed products which have negatively impacted the confectionary and bakery industries.
Albeit, several opportunities for innovation, especially regarding domestic production of wheat or increased production of wheat flour substitutes such as cassava and matooke have been unveiled by the current challenges.
The ministries of Trade and Agriculture have all planned to support these innovations with requisite policies and incentives with several members of the business community, Lead firms, YAWs partners, and Government research firms discussing concrete and informative resolutions.
The Youth involved in cassava production and distribution have also been part of the discussions and the project aims to implement these deliberations together with the help of Government agencies.
Speaking during a panel discussion, Miss Allen Nsereko, a representative of Ntake Bakery which is one of the lead firms, pledged that they will reduce wheat imports and encourage domestic wheat production through a partnership with innovators on different blends of flour.
“Ntake Bakery recently thought of substituting wheat for other products but the problem is pricing,” Nsereko said.
She added: “The substitute should be cheaper than what is already being used. Why should wheat from Russia be cheaper than cassava in Uganda?”
The panel tasked to answer the question: “What more do we need to harness opportunities arising out of rising commodity prices of wheat to create jobs?” included; Bahati Joseph, the Deputy Director Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID), Matano Kodowa, the Managing Director of HotLoaf, Mrs Wanjira Kayuki Mulindwa, the Managing Director TUA and Mrs Rebecca Mugwanya, the Chief Executive Officer Orga.
“What is important in processing this product is to improve our quality. Right before we think of marketing it, we need to ensure that it’s of high quality,” Orga CEO Mugwanya told the panel.
“We are in this together. The most important aspect is that let’s work together. This is a call to bakers, we are here, call on us because Gluten Free is a good prospect for you,” she added.
On his part, HotLoaf MD Kodowa said the franchise program aims to support the youth but mostly women as we seek to have over 200 franchises across the country
“I would like to re-echo that HotLoaf Bakeries has an opportunity for the youth thanks to the support from PSFU.”
Sarah Kagingo, PSFU Board Member and Sector Chair-Professional Services, urged the government ministries and agencies to do more sensitization about their services to the Ugandans who need them.
“I have listened to fantastic ideas you have shared. Uganda is a cornerstone of policies that even countries around East Africa copy and paste Uganda policies. The issue is on implementation.”
She made a case for participation and standardization which, according to her, can be helpful to companies.
“When these companies grow and standardize, they may end up with surplus products that our local market cannot consume. So, we must come up with other markets in the region and the rest of the world. The reason we are here is to explore import replacement.”
“Before PSFU organizes these dialogues, what are you doing as the ministry of Trade to make sure people benefit from them?” she queried, adding, “You have guidelines on agriculture, why allow them to gather dust on your shelves? Share them with the public.”
In her parting remarks, Damali Ssali, PSFU Chief Programs and Projects Officer who represented the CEO, urged more discussions and noted that the next time, farmers attending would diversify the whole agenda and make it more interesting.
“It’s important that we have the farmers in the room so that we can understand the real problems. We need to have these dialogues more frequently and often but also in a more practical way,” she said.
“As PSFU, we are bridging the gap between the Private Sector and the Public Sector. We are in the middle trying to solve those problems and also bring together different players in the value chain such as millers, processors, producers and bakers.”
She added: “I want to thank the exhibitors for bringing their products out here and spending time with us to be part of these discussions.”