2. Uganda: Organic certification allows farmers to tap export market (By Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Kampala, Uganda)

| June 1, 2009

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The only way to reach the small island of Busi in northern Lake Victoria is by canoe from the mainland. The island has no electricity or basic infrastructure. But life is improving thanks to organic pineapples.

A local organic association has built a modern pineapple processing factory to tap the potential of the island’s farmland.

Inside the factory, the hectic work day begins with weighing fresh pineapples. The fruit is then washed, peeled, sliced, and dried. After 12 hours, the
dried pineapple is packed, labelled, and ready for transport. At the factory, up to 30 kilograms of pineapples can be processed per day.

The factory is the part of an effort to reach the export market. Since 2003, the JALI Organic Association has been seeking certification from the UK-based Soil Association. Certification from this licensing body is the key to reaching the lucrative British organic market.

Ephraim Muwanga is the project coordinator for JALI. He says the process of certification is very challenging. Each year, the Soil Association sends inspectors to ensure that the pineapples are grown organically. This is a costly and rigorous process. JALI must pay for transportation, accommodation and other allowances for the inspectors.

If a farmer is caught smuggling pineapples that are not organically grown, the Soil Association could cancel the certification.

The vigilance continues at the factory. Mr. Muwanga explains that every farmer is given a code. His or her pineapples are processed separately so that if a UK buyer finds a problem, it is easy to trace.

The 39 farmers who are now certified to supply pineapples to the factory have every reason to smile. The price for organic pineapples sold to the factory is more than twice that of non-organic pineapples sold on the local market.

David Kasoma grows organic pineapples on an eight-acre piece of land. He has been supplying the factory for two years. He says the price is very good compared to the ordinary market. But his work does not stop on the farm. He is also employed at the JALI factory. The income allows him to provide for his family of ten.

This is only the beginning for Busi’s organic pineapple operation. JALI is still sending samples to the UK market. Once they find a steady buyer, more than 100 farmers may be involved in growing and processing the fruit.