Food crisis offers economic benefits for some States, Uganda informs UN debate

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

23 September 2008 – The global crisis sparked by soaring food prices offers an economic opportunity for some countries, especially those in Equatorial Africa, to take advantage by boosting their agricultural production, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told world leaders gathered for the General Assembly today.

Speaking at United Nations Headquarters on the opening day of the Assembly's annual high-level debate, Mr. Museveni said the technological and economic advances made by his country in the past two decades meant Ugandans were not necessarily disturbed by the recent spike in the prices of many staple crops.

"It is an opportunity as far as we are concerned," he said. "It is not a bottleneck. In fact, farmers in Uganda are reaping high. That is why our economy last year grew by 9 per cent per annum."

Mr. Museveni said the "so-called 'food crisis' is actually good for Equatorial Africa," given its climatic conditions and common crops.

"Over the years we have been growing a lot of food – maize, bananas, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, rice, wheat; and producing animal products like milk, beef, etc."

But he added that the greatest problem for countries such as Uganda has been reaching major markets for the foods it produces.

Protectionism in the European Union and countries such as the United States and Japan and a lack of factories within Uganda to process the foods so they could reach distant markets had combined to hold back the country's economic growth, the President said.

"It is good that the USA, EU, India, Japan and China have opened their markets to African products – tariff-free, quota-free. However, there is still the issue of subsidies. These should be removed. We farm in Uganda without subsidies.

"Why shouldn't the farmers in these countries with better infrastructure, lower interest rates, abundant electricity, etc, do the same? Why do they need protection? Protectionism interferes with those that can produce food easily, such as Uganda. This is not correct."

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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