The 2018/19 budget for agriculture has seen several cuts in many departments, while others have witnessed marginal increments, although the overall figures have seen increment on the allocation to the sector.
Although the coming year has an increment in budget to about Shs892.9b, up from the Shs865b for the financial year ending June 30, 2018, a good percentage of it is going to wage and non-wage recurrent expenditure, amounting to about Shs270b.
With the National Development Plan II identifying agriculture as one of the primary growth sectors in the coming years employing up to 65 per cent of the population, government says through the sector, it aims to transform the Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern prosperous society in 30 years.
In the Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan, the sector aims to be a competitive, profitable and sustainable sector to transform the sector from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture.
This, government says will help create employment opportunities, especially for the youth and women, increase household incomes, while ensuring household food security along the entire commodity value chain.
A look at the coming year’s agriculture budget against the year ending June this year’s shows that the budget increased by about Shs27billion, from the current Shs865.2b to Shs892b.
The 2018/19 budget shows that the bigger percentage of the budget of up to Shs412.2b will be for domestic development, with several of the development programmes seeing real cuts. Government will contribute Shs681b, while donor contribution amounts to Shs211b.
Agriculture and animal industry will take Shs355.7b, up from Shs107b for 2017/18 financial year.
For dairy development and regulation, Shs5.7 billion was allocated down from Shs6.6b in 2017/18 financial year, under urban farming, KCCA is allocated Shs6.7b down from Shs8.4b, National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank gets Shs11b, down from Shs12.1b in the current financial year.
Agriculture advisory services under the Naads Secretariat has witnessed a budget cut from the current Shs279.7b to Shs249.98b in the next financial year. National Agricultural Research Organisation has also seen a similar cut in the budget from the current Shs85.9b to Shs62b.
Uganda Cotton Development Organisation has allocation of Shs5b, Uganda Coffee Development Authority Shs73.6, and LG Agriculture and Commercial Services gets a bigger share of Shs122.97b.
With some significant cuts in some key areas like advisory and research services, it is not clear how the country will achieve the set targets.
Minister speaks out
When asked about how these targets will be achieved considering that allocations to the different departments have seen cuts, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, the Agriculture minister, said they will work with what is available.
“It’s priorities that changed. We have devoted more money to research and we hope it will work out. This time we are handling agricultural mechanisation, water for irrigation and improving crop yields and quality,” he said.
Mr Ssempijj attributed the cuts to donors withdrawing funding. For example NARO this time received only Shs62b, down from 84.1 in 2017/18 financial year which he said happened because the donors reduced funding to research. He, however, said this will change in the next financial year.
“Government has promised us that now that the infrastructure has already achieved over 50 per cent completion, the next priority will be agriculture,” he said.
In the 2019/20 financial year, the proposed budget for agriculture stands at Shs1 trillion. Mr Ssempijja said if financed, this will propel the sector to greater heights.
He said the focus is now on increasing production and productivity of agricultural commodities and enterprises; increasing access to critical farm inputs; Improve access to markets and value addition, strengthen the quality of agricultural commodities; and strengthen the agricultural services institutions and the enabling environment.
He said government has already embarked on construction of valley tanks in drought-stricken areas; purchase of assorted IT equipment to pilot the e-voucher; rehabilitation of agriculture zonal research institutes infrastructure and purchase of assorted value addition equipment under Naads such as milk coolers, rice hullers, maize mills, driers and purchase of tractors.
He also said construction of fertiliser stores; construction and rehabilitation of farmer access roads, construction of cotton processing infrastructure and construction of coffee washers are all in progress.