The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr Frank Tumwebaze has said Government is planning to boost grape farming in Uganda as one of the ways to help Ugandans improve their household incomes.
While on a one-day field visit to grape farmers at Nyakayojo and Katojo Cells in Mbarara City South Division, the minister revealed that the government’s intention is to help farmers produce good yields that would fetch them good market both locally and internationally.
“I came with a team of experts from NARO and NAADS to ensure availability of quality seeds because the President directed me to ensure they are helped to also grow table grapes for home consumption but more so, the quality of our grapes will create the market, “said Hon Tumwebaze.
He encouraged grape growers in Mbarara to embrace growing table grapes that are intended for consumption while still fresh.
“We are currently having a trade problem with Kenya. We used to get grapes from Kenya now we no longer do that. That’s why the president sent me here to encourage you to take advantage of the market we have,” he said.
Mr Stanislaus Kamanyiro, a grape farmer in Mbarara however reminded the minister that during president Museveni’s visit to the area in 2008, he pledged to provide a modern wine-making mini-factory to the farmers, a promise yet to be fulfilled thirteen years later.
In response, mr. Tumwebaze promised to make a follow-up on Kamanyiro`s complaint and also directed Dr. Ambrose Agona the Director General of National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) through Mbarara ZARDI to coordinate a team of experts from the Agricultural Research Organization, NAADS, District Production Officer and Mr Kamanyiro to sit and find possible ways of getting good quality seeds and report back to him within two months.
On his part, Dr Agona committed to give the minister feedback within a month or two and said NARO would use the committees’ farmers have set up to gather the metrics and data concerning the land each farmer in this project has.
Dr Agona added that NARO had already done some samples of grapes that Mr Kamanyiro had recommended and that they would be ideal for table grapes. “We will work hand in hand to first find out if the land is rich enough with soil levels or fertilities that would enable them to grow well,” Dr Agona said.
He also promised the minister that NARO would be doing more sensitization of farmers on more ways of how they can handle wine grapes in a bid to produce quality outputs.
“There is a need to find means of how farmers can sort out unripe grapes and store them somewhere until they ripen.”
Dr Agona noted that such a method is better than chasing away farmers who have some unripe grapes which he said causes them financial loss.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Nyakayojo Grape Farmers Association, was optimistic Mr Tumwebaze’s visit would change the farmers’ fate for the better and promised to mobilize more farmers to join the enterprise to be able to sustain the readily available market.
“Your visit is timely, as chairman of the association, I promise to mobilize more farmers also to join since government has also picked interest in the crop,” Mr Asiimwe said.