East African farmers and producers under their umbrella organization Fair-trade East and Central Africa Network have pointed out the lack of markets for their produces as a major hindrance towards them achieving the middle-income status.
The farmers, who numbered over 150 from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia, converged at Speke Resort Munyonyo for the 3rd Regional Fair-trade Convention to find ways how they can innovate for sustainable agri-business.
According to Chris Oluoch the Head of Fair-trade East and Central Africa (ECAN) inadequate, unpredictable markets with fluctuating prices have made it difficult for farmers to freely enjoy Fair-trade.
“Hon Minister, the challenge of lack of markets for our produces is hurting us so much. We also have a challenge of cooperative strengthening where people hang on to leadership for so long, diversification of our produces, encouraging more women to participate in leadership and having the next generation mainly youth to engage in farming as a business,” said Oluoch.
Oluoch said other challenges affecting them are climate change adaptation and mitigation, access to finance, education to their farmers and local infrastructure development, healthcare and improving participation from all cycles.
While in Uganda, Farmers of Fair-trade East and Central Africa Network visited local farms to learn from the Ugandan farmers about their best practices as well as challenges and how they overcame them.
They also focused on exploring and robust discussions on, various topics such as Business Insights on Emerging Market Opportunities, Approaches to Business Sustainability in Producer Organizations, New Frontiers in Market Access Model and Innovative Approaches for Communicating with The Markets.
Uganda’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Anne Kyambadde, who was a keynote speaker at the convention asked the farmers not to over complain of lack of markets because many governments including Uganda have accented to many free trade agreements including the African Continent Free Trade Area (AcFTA), COMESA, EAC and the Tripartite agreement that creates a free trade zone between COMESA member states, EAC member states and SADC member states.
“I appreciate the efforts you have put in place through your organization, Fairtrade Africa that has enabled our Cooperative Organizations to penetrate the export markets with certified and competitive products.
“Your Corporate Social Responsibility intervention through the provision of premiums has improved the socioeconomic situation of the people in the program area.
“But please, educate your members about the free markets like the COMESA market, the African Continental Free Trade Area market, the Tripartite market, EAC market and SADC markets,” said Kyambadde.
BY PAUL TENTENA