Estimating the comparative advantage of production and export of Uganda’s certified organic fruits: A case study of fresh and dried pineapples and apple bananas
Ssebunya, Robert Brian
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Uganda has favorable natural conditions for organic agriculture, which means that many crops can be grown using this approach. Traditional mixed farming systems remain dominant whereby most farmers cultivate much of the land without recourse to agro-chemicals. The international trade in organic products is, however, growing rapidly. Global sales of organic food and drinks have increased by 43 per cent from 23 billion US$ in 2002 (Organic Monitor, 2003) with sales reaching 33 billion US$ in 2005 (SOEL, 2007). Organic Monitor reports sales to have reached 46.1 billion US$ by 2007 from 15.2 billion US$ in 1999, representing an average annual growth rate of about 25.4 % (Organic Monitor, 2009). Most certified organic production in Africa is geared towards export markets, with the large majority being exported to the EU, which is Africa’s largest market for agricultural produce (and the world’s largest organic market) (SOEL, 2007). The demand in the major export markets is greatly increasing and many African countries, including Uganda, are trying to exploit this opportunity by increasing supply of organic produce. This research, therefore, had a major thrust of understanding, from the economic point of view, the nature and potential of major certified organic horticultural produce from Uganda and to examine the comparative advantages of organic horticultural produce, with focus on fresh and dried pineapples and apple bananas, both spatially and in terms of economic gain based on investment. The study covered all firms which were certified to produce and/or export organic fresh and/or dried fruits during the period of the study (2005-2007) and their associated farmers in five districts. Four products, constituting the major fruit exports by volume, were selected namely; fresh pineapples, dried pineapples, fresh apple bananas and dried apple bananas amongst fresh and dried fruits respectively. Primary data was collected using two questionnaires, one for farmers and the other for processors and/or exporters. Secondary information was also reviewed for validation, verification and enhancement of the collected data. The data was summarized using the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) which was also used to obtain descriptive statistics. Domestic resource costs (DRCs) were computed for each product at the farm gate and border points, as a difference between the domestic unit price and the unit cost of production for each product taken as a fraction of the border unit price. The costs of production varied widely from one location to another because of differences in physical, agronomical and geographical features, farming systems, physical and market infrastructure. Generally more inputs go into the production of pineapples than apple bananas, with labour for weeding being the highest cost input, accounting for 18% of the total cost. In apple banana production, the cost of fertilizers (organic) is the biggest contributor (contributes more than half) to the total cost which, together with the mulching cost, accounts for 62.9 % of the total cost of production. In terms of post harvest expenses, the packaging and drying costs account for the largest share. Uganda is more cost efficient in the production of organic apple bananas than pineapples, that is, the cost of production of organic apple bananas is significantly (p<0.001) lower than that for pineapples. As indicated in the DRC results, the comparative advantage of production, handling and export is significantly (P<0.001) higher for apple bananas than pineapples in both fresh and dry forms. As expected, the price of a given organic product significantly increases while the cost of production significantly reduces the comparative advantage of that product. In order to stimulate growth of organic exports, more investment in production at farmer level, value addition to avert the airfreight constraint, and local organic market development are important strategies to consider. However, further research using a bigger sample size of farmers, export firms, products and specific markets is needed to validate these findings.