12 Ugandan companies certified to supply US market after Dallas Convention

The Uganda North American Association Convention which took place in Dallas,Texas recently came with tangible benefits especially for 12 companies which were certified to supply various products to the US market.

The 12 companies were certified by Dr Roberts Chiuri of the Global Standards Agency following rigorous training under the organization of the United Nations Development Programme and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrialisation (PACEID).

The agency provided market preparedness skills for Ugandan companies wishing to explore new markets, especially in the US.

Chiuri works with specifications set by the Food Standards Agency of the US and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA is a trade preference programme established in 2000 as part of broader legislation that President Bill Clinton enacted to strengthen US trade ties with Africa and the Caribbean. 

Mr Odrek Rwabwogo, the chairman of PACEID, said the training was meant to stop blind trade. 

“Not being in this US market of the $18 trillion consumption value, in a very organized way, is wrong,” he said.

“We will use this training of the first set of companies to train many more for each market we enter. This, combined with better market research, good packaging, lower cost of logistics, adherence to good practices and standards, and provision of export funding support will increase our market share from Africa as Ugandan products, and help us meet the set target,” Rwabwogo added.

According to him, PACEID aims at enabling Uganda export products worth $6b in five years and $100b by 2060s.

The 12 companies are Fresh Cuts (beef), Jakana Foods (dried fruits), KK Foods (fresh produce), Mountain Harvest Coffee, Masha Coffee, Rabboni Group Ltd (grain), The Family Master (grain), Arise Collection Ltd (leather), Adventure Consults (tourism), Africa’s Great Explorations aka The Age (tourism), Let’s Go Travel (tourism) and The SIMONS UGA Ltd (vanilla).

The owners of the above companies have since expressed optimism.

Henry Makumbi, the chief executive officer of Rabboni, said they expect their sales to more than double.

“This will also enable us to create more jobs for Ugandans and bring into the country more foreign exchange,” he added.

The managing director of Let’s Go Travel, Joan Else Kantu, said they cannot take the opportunity for granted.

“It is a very good good opportunity for us all. I’m excited, grateful and ready to give it my all.”

Meanwhile, James Kanyije of KK Foods said: “America is a market of standards, and we now have the standards. This is a good thing for us and we greatly hope to benefit from this.”

More companies hopeful 

Hundreds of other Ugandan exporters to the US are hopeful they will realise more profits if they organize themselves into one association.

Uganda is already exporting an array of products to the US under AGOA.  

For instance, over the last three years where the world was forced into hibernation by COVID-19, Uganda registered positive growth in its exports to the US. The Americans consumed more coffee, crafts, vanilla, chocolate, tea, textile and dried fruits than they did before the pandemic. 

In 2018/19 Uganda’s AGOA exports to US were valued at $1 million, which grew to $3.4 million a year later. By the end of 2021, the AGOA products exported to the US by Uganda rose to $5.1 million.

But Stephen Asiimwe, the Executive Director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), opines that this foreign earning could grow by leaps and bounds if companies and individuals in Uganda formed an association. 

At a recent meeting with AGOA exporters, Asiimwe reiterated the need for the formation of an association which should later be registered under the PSFU for possible technical and financial support. 

Local media reported that PSFU promised “to support them with financial assistance which will enable the exporters to solve/ handle the issues of quantity and quality”. This financial assistance would help the exporters in terms of value-addition in order to compete in the American market. 

Asiimwe’s proposal got support from exporters as they said there is much more to earn from the American market. 

“AGOA is a fantastic opportunity. But we haven’t taken full advantage of it yet,” said Teddy Ruge, an exporter of value added Moringa products.

The Act which was passed in 2000 by the US congress, provides an opportunity to sub-Saharan Africa to engage in preferential trade access by allowing countries in the region to export tariff-free products to the US. 

Under the AGOA profiles, “Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, substantial reserves of recoverable oil, and small deposits of copper, gold, and other minerals. Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of the economy, employing 72% of the work force.”

Some of the products listed under AGOA include: include coffee, leather products such as bags, shoes, shea butter, crafts, coffee and dairy products, casein, fish, vanilla, dried fruits, cocoa, essential oils, natural extracts, spices and floriculture. 

Already the Government of Uganda has developed standards for these products that rhyme with the American standards. 

The Ministry of Trade Principal commercial officer, Mr Francis Kuluo, said the quality of products was being taken care of.
“Quality…is an important market requirement. And we have been working on it since 2018. We have since developed standards for many if not all our products, including crafts. We have also reduced standards and certification costs with a view to grow our exports,” he told local media.

According to Kuluo, the current AGOA deal expires in 2025 but President Joe Biden has already indicated that it will be extended to 2035. This gives an opportunity to investors and exporters to prepare more products and embrace the American market which has given Africa and Uganda an opportunity to export more than 6,000 products.

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