Early this year, a multi-billion shilling factory was officially opened in Kisoro. It aims to add value to Irish potatoes produced in Kigezi region, and with this, farmers expect less difficulty in getting market for their produce, which translates to better incomes.
Known as Kisoro Potato Processing Industries (KPPI), it started in 2011 as a joint business venture with its primary target the farmers in Kisoro, Kanungu and Kabale districts.
Also, KPPI has entered into a partnership with Olympus Trading Company, a distribution company, which also represents a number of international brands that specialise in frozen and dry foods in the East African region.
The arrangement will ease finding the market for processed Irish potato products, handle the transport and distribution from Kisoro to major towns such as Mbabara, Masaka and Kampala in Uganda, as well as in Rwanda and DR Congo.
Dr John Bahana, business development director, KPPI, says Kigezi produces 85 per cent of the potatoes consumed in Uganda, including those exported to DR Congo and Rwanda.
He noted that the middleman rides on the farmers’ ignorance of prices on the market. So, to deal with this issue, KPPI has a partnership with the farmer’s union in Kisoro.
The union was allocated 25 per cent shares in the factory. This was made possible by government, which purchased the shares through the National Agricultural Aisory Services.
Moreso, to protect the farmers when selling their potatoes, the farmers’ and the KPPI representatives negotiate prices prior to harvest.
This is a relief to the farmers in that it spares them the burden of having to deal with middlemen considering the farmers are hardly able to access the market directly or store their harvest long enough to get favourable prices without the risk of losing out on both.
Alex Muganwa managing director, Olympus Trading, pointed out that Kampala alone has a consumption capacity of 30 tonnes of processed chips per day, while the factory has a production capacity of 60 tonnes per day.
“We shall only begin with distributing 20 tonnes per day. We have market for this and with time we shall meet the deficit in demand,” he says. The main target is in the upscale shopping centres before they can reach the restaurants and individual consumers in local markets around the city.
The assurance of market means more potatoes will be consumed per day. During the official announcement of the partnership, KPPI managing director Tom Mugenga called on government to enable farmers access seed varieties that will ensure more yield.
“The current seeds in Kisoro produce very tasty potatoes. However, in the long run, the harvest in not good enough for making chips. We use a lot of potatoes and yet output less chips,” Mugenga explains. He also points out that the current seeds being used are not disease resistant.
At the same event, Henry Banyenzaki, state minister for economic monitoring, said agro-processing was an important step to developing the agricultural sector. He noted that people concentrate more on production than developing the value chain.
The minister also revealed that government is in the process of developing a cold chain storage system and funds had been allocated for this project.
“Post-harvest handling should be made a priority and government should make it possible for the major players in the sector to develop their capacity,” Banyenzaki said.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor