Lobbying for a better agriculture

UNFFE, through ESFIM consultant Morrisson Rwakakamba, has started lobbying for changes in agricultural policy in Uganda, based on ESFIM research. The ESFIM research focused on NAADS (National Agricultural Advisory Services).

In an article in HarvestMoney of 5 June 2012  (“We can reclaim Uganda’s agricultural sector”), Morrison Rwakakamba explains why agricultural policy in Uganda is broken and how it can be improved.

In an open-ed in the Daily Monitor of 12 June 2012 (Why UPDF should be backed to enter agricultural modernisation), Morrison Rwakakamba proposed two interventions that can improve Uganda’s agricultural sector

In the African Executive, (Uganda Budget: What Gain for Farmers?) Morrison Rwakakamba provides his thoughts on Hon. Maria Kiwanuka’s budget speech for 2012-2013 and discusses whether the 2012/2013 agriculture budget will enable the sector to grow and gain competitiveness in the region

Finally, Morrison Rwakakamba is interviewed in “MUSEVENOMICS” analyzed, a youtube video on agricultural policy in Uganda. The text of the video:

“President Yoweri Museveni’s analysis of the economic situation in the country has generated controversy and praise in equal measure. Addressing district officials during the national agricultural productivity conference at State House in Entebbe, the president took them through, what one may refer to the Museveni school of Economics. While analysts appear to share the President’s views on some issues, at-least in theory, there is this feeling across the border that the Head of State may have missed out on some critical elements, and that is implementation.

President Museveni has interpreted the high commodity prices as a window of opportunity for farmers. And he has encouraged the farming community to cash in on the situation by boosting production. In his view, people in real production are benefiting, save for those involved in salaried employment. And when he met top district leaders at State House, Entebbe over the weekend, he got the chance to explain his view in detail.

Unfortunately, the facts on the ground do not explain this view. The recent past has witnessed even farmers feeling the pinch of the high cost of goods and services, despite the good market prices of agricultural products. According to economist Morrison Rwakakamba, a practicing Ugandan economist, the president’s economics is theoretically acceptable, but there are factors in Uganda against the theory.

In his explanation, for farmers to benefit from the market conditions, structural factors need to be in place. One such suggestion is that farmers should be able to collectively bargain for better prices, as opposed to the situation now where agricultural producers are also being fleeced by middlemen, who can not be eliminated altogether from the equation.

Critics of the President’s school of Economics have posed…if the middle class constitutes the majority of those with the purchasing power, and yet their salaried income has remained static, how then can their suffering at the behest of the farmer be justified? And what happens when their dwindling incomes can no longer support their buying power.
Mr. Museveni seems to acknowledge this concern, but that’s about it. He does not appear to have an economic prescription for this.

This too remains a debate, with some arguing that there is no evidence in the market to show the effects of lack of buying ability. Some even think most of the middle class can afford, considering expenditure of luxury items and services that are consumed by this group on average.

For farmers to benefit from the high prices, they should be encouraged to add value at the farm level, so that they do not sell raw material. But the attitude that farmers have towards agriculture as a business can not be ignored. And just a comment on how the country is reacting to the current scenario, maybe government is over reacting, he says. But why is sugar taking so much prominence in government reaction?
While the president maintains the economy is not in crisis, there is a school of thought that President could have missed the point on this one…Or has he?”