Agriculture and farming in Uganda


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Agriculture in Uganda

Uganda popularly known as ‘the Pearl of Africa’ is a landlocked country located in East-Central Africa in the African Great Lakes. region. Located on the edge of the Equator, Uganda is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania. Most of Uganda is covered by a plateau that gradually drops in elevation northwards. The edges of this massive plateau are marked by mountain ranges and valleys. Uganda’s climate is largely tropical with two rainy seasons per year, March to May and September to December. The northern region, which forms one quarter of the country lies outside the tropical belt, and hence experiences only one rainy season, March to October. The rest of Uganda lies within a relatively humid equatorial climate zones, and the topography, prevailing winds, and the presence of lakes and rivers cause large differences in rainfall patterns across the country. In 2018, arable land as a share of land area for Uganda was 34.4 %. The total area under cultivation is just over 69,000 ha, or about one-third of the land area and about 70% of this area is used to produce food crops for local consumption (according to World Bank statistics) The soils, in general, are fertile (and primarily lateritic), and those in the region of Lake Victoria are among the most productive in the world. Interspersed with these are the waterlogged clays characteristic of the northwest and of the western shores of Lake Victoria. According to the Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) 2016/17, 65 percent of the population is involved in agriculture related activities, and the sector contributes 73 percent of totalexports and 25 percent of the GDP. According to World Bank the agricultural and fisheries sector represented 24.2% of Uganda’s GDP (2019) and 70.7% of its employment in 2018 (ILOSTAT, 2019) Uganda is among the leading producers and exporters of coffee, bananas, and oil seed crops (sesame, soybean, sunflower, shea) in Africa, and a major producer of other crops like tea, cotton, tobacco, cereals, fresh foods and vegetables, nuts, essential oils, flowers, poultry, and freshwater fish. Uganda is the second largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria, producing about 5.3 million tonnes per year according to recent FAO statistics.

Cereals crops

Cereal crops grown in Uganda include; maize, finger millet, sorghum, rice, pearl millet and wheat in that order of importance. All these crops, other than wheat and rice, can be grown in most areas of the country. High potential areas for each crop are to a large extent, defined by rainfall amount and distribution. Maize requires medium to high rainfall that is well distributed throughout the growing season. As rainfall declines in duration and reliability, generally from south to north and westwards, finger millet becomes important. This in turn gives way to sorghum and finally pearl millet, as increasingly hardy crops that thrive in low rainfall environments.  Wheat requires cooler temperatures and is grown in highland areas of the country such as Kapchorwa , located in the eastern and north western parts of the country, respectively.

Maize is grown in most parts of Uganda but most intensely in eastern (Kapchorwa, Mbale, Kamuli, Jinja, Iganga), central (Masaka, Mubende) and western (Masindi, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo, Kasese, Kabarole). Over 90% of Uganda's maize is produced by smallholders, of which about 60% of the annual maize output is consumed on the farm. In many parts of the country, maize is intercropped with beans, soybeans or groundnuts.

Finger millet is the second most important cereal in Uganda after maize. Its production is concentrated in the east, north and southwest of the country. Up to 65% country's acreage is in the districts of Apac, Lira, Gulu, Kitgum, Iganga, Kamuli, Soroti and Tororo.

Grain sorghum is the third most important cereal crop in Uganda. It is widely grown in drier short grass areas in northern, eastern and south-western parts of the country. It is particularly important in the drought prone Karamoja region (Kotidi and Moroto districts), where it occupies 80% of the total crop acreage. It is also very important in Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri districts. It is more tolerant to drought than maize or finger millet, which makes it in important food security crop. It is a staple in much of eastern and northern Uganda.  Sorghum plays important roles in the food security of the country and incomes of many rural households.

Rice is grown in many parts of the country but the principal areas are Gulu, Iganga, Tororo, Kitgum, Pallissa, Hoima, Kibale, Lira and Kumi. There is an increase in acreage under rice production because of the increased demand, and stability of farm-gate and retail prices. Government policy that encourages farmers to grow rice so as to ensure food security for this commodity, alleviate poverty and reduce the need to import rice. Among the crops grown in Uganda, rice is second to none in economic returns to the smallholder farmer on the basis of labor per man-day per ha. Lowland rice is largely distributed in areas with extensive swamp networks. High potential areas for its production are found around Lake Kyoga. The acreage under lowland cultivation is increasing at 4000 ha/yr, most of which is reclaimed permanent wetlands.

Upland rice is a relatively new crop in Uganda's smallholder agriculture, but the consumption of rice is increasing due to its preference in school feeding and urbanization.  Smallholder farmers consider rice primarily as a cash crop; production in 2006 was at 154000 tonnes; average yield was 733 kg/ha.  Wheat is mainly produced in the districts of Kapchorwa, Kabale, Kisoro, Kabalore, Kasese, Bushenyi and Mbarara. Small quantities are also produced in Nebbi and West Nile districts.

Root crops

"Tropicalrootcrops"could be defined in many ways,but most workers accept that the phrase refers to staple foods grown in tropical or near-tropical conditions where the edibleorgan —root ,stem ,tuber,etc.—is subterranean (hypogeous). Uganda is the 3rd largest producer of potatoes in East Africa after Rwanda and Kenya, and its higher altitude areas are well placed to benefit from growing demand for potato products in the region. There is a general positive trend in production of potato due to slight growth in acreage and yield, but productivity is still lower than potential yields. In 2020, roots and tubers production for Uganda was 6.05 million tonnes. Though Uganda roots and tubers production fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to increase. For instance the overall production of the major root crops (sweet potatoes, potatoes and cassava) increased from 5,196,810 tons in 2016 to 5,862,280 tons in 2017 indicating a 12% increment.

Cash crops

The main traditional cash crops of Uganda include: Coffee, Tea, Cotton and Tobacco. Coffee contributes the highest revenue for the country. Coffee: 5% of coffee is produced by plantations, 10% by commercial farmers and 85% by smallholder producers. Uganda grows 2 types of coffee: Robusta and Arabica in the ratio of 4:1. Arabica is grown at altitudes ranging between 1,300 -2,300m above sea level; while Robusta is grown at altitudes ranging from 900-1,500m above sea level making Ugandan coffee to possess very good intrinsic qualities due to high altitude, soils and farming systems not easily found elsewhere in the world. Ugandan Robusta has a remarkably impressive cup when wet processed. It is commonly deemed to be of exceptional quality and retains its flavour qualities very well, which cannot always be said of other washed Robusta coffee. The variety of Wild Robusta Coffee still growing today in Uganda's rain forests is thought to be some ofthe rarest examples of naturally occurring coffee trees anywhere in the world.

Tea is one of Uganda’s main exports and is grown by both plantation companies and small holder farmers. The tea industry employs more than 60,000 people and supports the livelihood of over half a million people. The majority of Uganda’s tea is finds its way to international markets through the Mombasa Auction where they are then used for teabag blends. Most of the tea-growing districts are in South Western Uganda (Greater Ankole and Greater Kigezi Sub-regions), a few in western Uganda (Kyenjojo and Kabarole), Mityana in central Uganda and Zombo in northern Uganda. The majority of Uganda's tea finds its way to international markets, including to Turkey, the world's top tea consumer per capita.

Cotton is Uganda’s third largest export crop after coffee and tea. It is the main source of income for some 250,000 households, who cultivate cotton under rain-fed conditions and with minimal use of inputs,such as fertilisers and chemicals. Cotton is used also as a raw material for the domestic textile and edible oil industries (such as soap, edible oil and animal feed) Cotton has two major components: lint and cottonseed. Lint is the primary product of seed cotton and is transformed by the textile industry into yarn, textiles, garments and apparel, as well as into absorbent cotton wool. Meanwhile, cottonseed is a by-product that can be transformed into four major products, namely: edible oil, cottonseed cake, soap stock and cotton husks. Stalks are another cotton by-product -they are rarely transformed, but rather used as wood fuel or burnt in the field to control pests.


Groundnut is the second most widely grown legume in Uganda, after common beans. Groundnuts were brought into Uganda by early traders and travellers following the initial introduction of this crop into East Africa by Portuguese explorers in the mid- 1800s It is considered a women’s crop, since it was originally grown by females to supplement family diets with protein. This crop requires few inputs and increases soil fertility by fixing nitrogen, making it an appropriate choice in the low-input agricultural systems that are prevalent among many small-scale farmers in Africa Moreover, as a cash crop, groundnut can give relatively high returns for a limited land area, and is well adapted to the hot semi -arid conditions characterizing many of the regions where it is grown.


Tomato is a major crop in Uganda. Most of the tomatoes are bush tomatoes produced in the open field. There are two seasons of tomatoes a year, if irrigation is applied, tomatoes can be grown year- round (up to four harvests). It is widely consumed in the domestic market. Tomato demand is expected to increase with the rise in population and urbanization. In addition, the country supplies countries like Southern Sudan, DRC and Rwanda.

Onion are among the most widely consumed vegetable crops in Uganda. The total area under cultivation is estimated to be 86,500ha, with a total production of 344,000 MT per year. Uganda is the leading producer of onions in East Africa. It is consumed by almost all households on a daily basis and Uganda also supplies countries like South Sudan with onions.

Beans are the major source of proteins for low and middle-income households and is a widely grown vegetable crop in Uganda. Whereas there has been an increase in land allocated to bean production, yields have been falling mainly due to the unpredictable weather patterns. The potential for increased bean production is high, as there is a high demand for beans both on the local and regional markets. Beans are also traded across the border with, for example, Kenya, South Sudan, DRC and Rwanda.

Peas are produced extensively in Uganda. Many types of peas are produced for the domestic and regional market (Pigeon peas, Cow peas and Field peas). Peas being produced for export are the Snow peas. Production of peas has been on the increase and the trend is likely to continue. Asian vegetables.

The most common Asian vegetable produced in Uganda is the hot pepper. It is typically the Scotch Bonnet, mainly referred to as the “Caribbean” pepper. This has a rich, unique flavour and is used mainly as a condiment. Hot peppers are mostly bought by traders who sell the produce on the export market that caters to the EU ethnic market. Other important vegetables for this market are okra and garden egg.


Current fruit production is mainly in the hands of smallholders. Production is centred in the southern, central and eastern regions. In Uganda, there are hardly any large-scale fruit growers; fruits are produced exclusively as a smallholder crop. The majority of the fruits produced are pineapples and bananas. Other fruits of significant importance include mango, passion fruit, apple, small sweet banana (Ndiizi), Cavendish banana (Bogoya), avocado, citrus, papaya and jackfruit. A variety of tropical fruits are produced in various districts of Uganda.

Bananas occupy the largest cultivated area among staple food crops in Uganda and are primarily grown on small subsistence farms (plots of less than 0.5 ha). I n addition to being a major food staple, bananas are an important source of income, with excess production sold in local markets. Average per capita annual consumption of bananas in Uganda is the highest in the world, estimated at close to 1 kg per person per day. Bananas are consumed as fruit; prepared by cooking, roasting, or drying; and fermented for the production of banana juice and alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and gin). Most of the banana varieties grown in Uganda are endemic (indigenous) to the East African highlands—a region recognized as a secondary centre of banana diversity. The East African highland banana is a unique genomic group, selected over the centuries by farmers. As many as 84 distinct varieties of endemic East African highland bananas, classified into five clone sets, are grown by farmers in the region.

In 2019, Uganda exported $4.86M in Bananas, making it the 62nd largest exporter of Bananas in the world. At the same year, Bananas was the 32nd most exported product in Uganda. The main destination of Bananas exports from Uganda are: United Kingdom ($1.94M), Belgium ($782k), Canada ($717k), Germany ($541k), and Switzerland ($238k). Uganda has favourable climatic conditions for the successful production of pineapples. Uganda pineapples are considered sweeter and less acidic than those produced in other countries in the region. Uganda also produces dried pineapple for export.

Production of passion fruits has been growing over the years thanks to increased demand for local consumption. The commercial passion fruit varieties grown in Uganda include the purple granadilla variety locally known as Kasese, Masaka, and the highly disease and pest resistant Kawanda. Kawanda Hybrid is the most preferred because of its big size and a lot of juice per fruit. Many varieties of papayas are grown widely in all districts of Uganda. There are limited specialised farmers producing the fruit. Citrus fruits produced in Uganda include several varieties of oranges, lemons and tangerines. The demand for citrus fruits on the local market is high, as indicated by the volume of imports of oranges from South Africa. There is a high potential for increased production mainly by getting more farmers to engage in the commercial production of citrus fruits.

Mangoes are commonly grown in Uganda. Mangoes grow in the wild and have been adapted to all ecological zones of Uganda: dry or humid lowland, mountain and Lake Shoreline. Production is argued to be on the rise over the years with increasing demand on the local and export markets. Different varieties of mangoes are grown in almost all the districts of Uganda. Some of the varieties are suitable for the fresh fruit market and others for processing into juice and other products. Avocado is a priority fruit for development as a non-traditional export crop. A few varieties are grown in most districts of Uganda, some large and others small. Local demand is high and there is potential for increased production. Opportunities exist in commercial production of the fruit for the export markets.

Most of the fruits and vegetables produced in Uganda are consumed locally and are produced by smallholder farmers. After harvest, they are transported to rural market centres for local consumers or are bought at the farm by neighbours. Other fruits and vegetables are transported to bigger market centres where many producers use the informal open-air markets that are organised once or twice a week. Post-harvest technologies are absent for locally consumed fruits and vegetables. However, fruits like pineapples and avocados exported to Europe and other destinations are graded and packaged according to export standards


In Uganda, more than 50 percent of the households depend on livestock for their livelihoods. Uganda currently has some 14.2 million cattle, 16 million goats, 4.5 million sheep, 47.6 million poultry and 4.1 million pigs, according to data from the agricultural ministry and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. The country is currently a net exporter of livestock products and live animals, primarily dairy products and eggs. Meat and meat products play a minor role.

Cattle are the most important source of meat in Uganda. The greatest concentration of animals is found in the "cattle corridor", extending from South-Western to North Eastern Uganda. Around 90% of the national cattle herd is kept under pastoral and mixed smallholder farms. The pastoral system is dominant in the North Eastern sub-region (Kotido, Moroto, Soroti and Kumi) in the South West sub-region (Ntungamo, Mbarara, Masaka, Sembabule and Rakai Districts), and in Central Uganda (Luwero and Kiboga Districts). Pastoralists keep herds of variable size, that goes up to 100 heads per person. Herds are largely (98%) composed of local breeds (e.g. Ankole and local zebu). Cattle largely feed on natural pastures, including communal grazing areas and fallow land. Occasionally, animals are fed with crop residues.

More than a half of the total chicken population is located in the Eastern and Central regions. Eighty five percent of all chicken are indigenous, with only 15% being exotic. About 50% of the Uganda population or 3.8 million farmers are estimated to keep scavenging poultry. The free-range system is present throughout the country, though more pervasive in the West Nile and South West sub-regions. Farmers typically keep a flock of about a dozen birds, including hens (6), cocks (3) and cockerel and chicks.


Trees, forests and woodlands cover about 14% of Uganda’s land surface. Uganda’s forests fall into two major categories namely the natural forests and the plantations. Natural forests supply the bulk of forest products but plantations are gaining prominence. High Forests in Uganda were in the past degraded so much such that only 100,000 to 200,000 ha can be considered as ‘productive’ forest. It is estimated that of this only 50,000 ha are exploitable. The rest is so degraded that it will have to be protected for at least another 20 years.

Despite a favourable climate and soils, Uganda has only a limited area of timber plantations, mainly pine and cypress. These are mostly mature or semi-mature but years of neglect have led to fire damage. Lack of pruning and thinning has reduced the potential value for high quality timber. Industrial forest plantations in Uganda consist of softwood or conifer and hardwood plantations. They cover about 345 km2 of which the majority is planted with softwoods. Government owned plantation forests are estimated at 240 km2 making up only 2.2% of gazetted forests. The main objective of the plantation establishment is to provide raw material to forest industries in the form of saw logs and or pulpwood.


Uganda is richly endowed with natural water bodies, and fisheries play a very important role as a basis for subsistence and commercial livelihood. Uganda has eight major rivers, the Victoria Nile, Achwa, Okok, Pager, Albert Nile, Kafu, Mpongo, and Katonga.

The country's southern rivers drain into Lake Victoria. Rivers rising to the north of this lake empty into Lake Kyoga. The southwestern rivers drain into lakes Edward and George while the Albert Nile drains Lake Albert.

Lake Victoria is by far the largest, and economically most significant, of the national fisheries. However, other large lakes, including George, Edward, Albert, and Kyoga, along with the River Nile and a great variety of swamps and streams, also contribute substantially to the annual national catch. Customary capture methods – baskets, traps, and hook-and-line – continue to be employed widely, largely for subsistence purposes. The bulk of production comes from commercial sources. Artisanal-scale fishers utilize various gear, including gillnets, longlines, beach seines and mosquito nets. Uganda’s fisheries are a major source of food and are crucial to livelihoods and local economies, as well as being an important export. It is estimated that between 1.0 and 1.5 million Ugandans work directly in capture fisheries, with another 5,000 people engaged in the industrial processing fisheries sector. The fisheries sector accounted for 1.6% of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016.

The fish products exported include fresh fish (not chilled), chilled and frozen fish, dry/smoked fish, fish maws, fish meal, fish oil, fish skins and live (ornamental) fish. Fresh fillets are the main fish products exported from Uganda accounting for around 76% of total quantity and 78% of total value. The European Union is the major market for Uganda’s fish accounting for 75% of total exports. Uganda produces up to 15 000 tons of fish from aquaculture, including production from small-scale fish farmers, emerging commercial fish farmers and stocked community water reservoirs and minor lakes. There are an estimated 20,000 ponds throughout the country with an average surface area of 500 m² per fish pond.

Agricultural markets Uganda

Arua Main Market

Gulu Main Market

Hoima Central Market

Iganga Main Market

Kabale Main Market

Kalerwe Market

Lira Main Market

Mbale Central Market

Nakasero Market

Nakawa Market

Owino Market

Soroti Main Market

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Agricultural companies in Uganda

Space Group Of Companies

22A, William Street

St Paul rabbit farm

Pobox 426 mukono

Sungura Meat Uganda

Kawempe, Soweto Rd, Kansanga



Uganda Cuts

P.o box 43526 kla

Water Front Fish And Cold Storage


Ygo Farm Ltd


Zaribwende Investiments

Mutungo, kunya

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