Uganda introduces new controls to save exports of Hot Pepper to EU

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Uganda has imposed a four-month restriction on exports of Hot Pepper (Capsicum Annum) plant products, to […]

Uganda has imposed a four-month restriction on exports of Hot Pepper (Capsicum Annum) plant products, to preclude a possible ban of its horticulture exports by the European Union.

A November 22, statutory Instrument signed by outgoing minister for Animal Industry Ms Joy Kabatsi who was also acting as the minister for Agriculture says exports of the products would be restricted for four months from the date of signature.

Ms. Kabatsi does not give any reasons for the decision but industry sources and ministry officials said the restriction, which does not mean a complete ban on exports of Hot Pepper, was intended to streamline the trade and put in place control measures agreed earlier with the European Union. The EU gave Uganda a six- month reprieve that ended in November to institute strict pest control and sanitary measures across its horticulture value chain of face exclusion from the European market.

The compromise followed an EU audit of after repeated incidents in which larvae of the False Codling Moth were intercepted in consignments from Uganda. Another EU audit team was in Uganda between October and November to review progress.

According to Ugandan plant protection experts, the EU is particularly concerned about the False Codling Moth because it is a very versatile pest.

“It can feed on between 80 and 120 plant species and can survive a wide temperature range from the tropics to the temperate belt. So it is potentially destructive to agriculture in the EU and that is why you see them spending money on these missions,” said one expert.

Mr. James Kanyije, the proprietor of horticulture exporter KK Foods told 256BN that only exporters found to be conforming to a strict code would be allowed to export. Among the measures introduced is a requirement for each exporter to have registered growers that are supervised for compliance.

Besides chemical intervention, farmers are expected to install fly traps that scented with pheromone baits to attract them away from the plants. Targeting the male, the traps would disrupt the reproductive cycle of the pest, reducing its numbers. Meanwhile chemical spraying at recommended intervals would complement the traps to starve survivors of nutrition.

Equally farmers with less than one acre will not be allowed to grow the crop. Kanyije says that it has been found that farmers with smaller holdings were the source of contamination because their earnings were too little to support recommended agricultural practices. Small holders for instance, would find hard to afford the recommended agricultural pesticides and handling practices and were therefore the main source of contamination.

“We shall allow them to grow only if they consolidate their parcels and participate in the value chain as groups rather than individuals,” Kanyije said adding that this would ease trace-ability.

An aphid, the False Codling Moth lays its eggs at the flowering stage and embeds itself within the fruit as it forms, without leaving any visible signs on the exterior.

A ministry of agricultural official who spoke to 256BN off record because he is not authorized to speak for the ministry said given the inadequate number of agricultural inspectors, it would be near impossible to supervise scattered farmers growing the crop on miniature parcels.

“Ultimately we want to see the kind of transformation that has been achieved by Kenya. When they introduced these measures two years ago and stopped open-field production, the number of exporters dropped from more than 100 to just 3. But the industry has since recovered and that is where we want to go,” he said.

Uganda has more than 100 food exporters but only 40 are engaged in export of fruits and vegetables.

The official added: “Under the International Plant Protection Convention, every country has an obligation not to trade in products with pests. If we don’t play our part in instituting measures that stop the migration of pests, then we risk exclusion from international trade in those products.”

@EntUgandaEU in Uganda

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