Grow export sales and see Uganda grow

airliner with a globe and autoloader with boxes in a container

airliner with a globe and autoloader with boxes in a container

The reality of Uganda importing $6 billion per year while exporting $2.4 billion still shocks the heck out of me.  Our Balance of Payments (BoP) is horrible.

Naturally, I always think about Canada since I have spent more years of my life here than I have spent in Uganda.

For one conference organised by Enterprise Moncton, Canada, I watched this gentleman from London UK talk about how the company he was working with moves perishables from East Africa to Europe.

He said something that I still think about to this day.  Their cargo plane used to land in TZ (Dar) and pick up fresh picked up beans and flowers and peas.  Then land in Entebbe and pick up the same.

All the suppliers naturally had to be certified for exporting into Europe and they had to be on the tamac at 5am.

The produce would be in the major European markets by mid day.  You have to understand that Heathrow is a major hub and there are many trucks waiting to transport everything to the other cities.

Our airport in Moncton works with Liege (Belgium).  When the cargo plane lands in Liege, there are trucks waiting to take the produce to all the major cities.  The landing fees in Liege are lower than Heathrow by the way.

Generally, you need partners at the receiving destination.  Distributors make a lot of money.  You can buy lobster in Canada for $8 per kg. and have the distributor sell it to the major supermarkets in France for $20 per kg. and then the grocer (Leclerc for example or Marks and Spencer) sell it retail for $30.  So it looks like being a distributor pays big time.  They do however pay a cost for this too.  They have to pre-order, pay, then sit on the inventory and then hopefully move it.

My experience in the seafood export brought our 3 daughters into the work force.

The 9yr old was in charge of the laptop to clock into a spreadsheet (Box number, weight in Kgs, weight in lbs).

The 12yr old was in charge of reading out (more like shouting out) the weight on each box, its number and weight.

The oldest was in charge of packing with me.  “Mom, this one is weighing more, let me take one out”  OR sometimes she would say “you forgot to put the gelpacks or soaker pad.

Then the little one would ensure that the Airway Bill was printed with the right weight and packing slip before the driver would show up for us to load everything into the truck.  Then we drive behind the driver to the airport to catch that flight.

What I find interesting is how Ugandans take so much for granted.  Our 9yr old and myself were in charge of the air cargo tracking.  There are websites for air freight tracking and God forbid that there is a snow storm and your shipment is stuck in Toronto when you are 1600km away.  Then it becomes a phone call to the warehouses which have fridgerated storage and can send a truck to pick up your shipment, hold it then put it on the next available plane.

In all this time, you have to keep communicating with the clients about where the shipment is.  Then on a bad day, customs or vet inspection over there might hold your shipment.  We were shipping live creatures.

Uganda ships flowers and fruits by air and can still not do it right.  These things can live in gelpacked styrofoam boxes for days.  So who is to blame here?  Lobster is only about 78hrs if packed right and if it is strong and kicking.

Uganda has many products we can export if we get the right team working for the people instead of their stomachs.

Regulations and taxes (import duty) differ country by country.  For the EU, this is a resource you might want to check out.

We have the Export Development Centre (EDC) for Canada.  Here is their website just so you get an idea.

The next president has to build exports from Uganda to the world.  There are a lot of products in Uganda which can be exported if the suppliers are supported.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fish, fresh meat, flowers, fruits, etc… are valuable exports and they fly by air.  The cost per kilo to ship these things to EU is only around $1kg.  The country has to get serious and provide the resources that people need.

Chile had its shellfish and salmon decimated.  Chile hit back at the world so hard it was amazing to watch.  Chile is a very big exporter of everything possible and by air.  The way they did it was to concentrate on the farmers, fishers, suppliers, logistics and then grow from nearly losing the world glory.  By the way Chile, Argentina and Mexico have very strict rules on harvesting.  This protects their stocks.

Martha Leah Nangalama

Moncton, Canada

Information you could use.  The writer is an IT analyst for an Oil company and has previously been a half owner of a seafood export company. PS:  The oldest kid has a Bcom and works for the government.  The next one is in Pre-Med in University.  The smallest wants to teach all the children of the world to love Maths and Music (OR she wants to be a child psychologist.  She is young though.  It could change).

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