In a recent presentation at the 14th National Competitive Forum in Kampala, Mr. Richard D Mubiru, Chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) and a director at Nytil, delivered a scathing critique of Uganda’s cotton industry. He revealed that a shocking 90 percent of the cotton produced in Uganda is exported, leaving only a meager 10 percent for domestic use. This glaring imbalance raises serious concerns about the government’s neglect of this crucial sector.
Mubiru pointed out that while the global textile market is expected to reach a staggering $1.412 trillion by 2028, Uganda remains stuck in a rut, failing to capitalize on this lucrative opportunity. He emphasized the urgent need for the government to step in and invest in the cotton sector, implementing the Cotton, Textile, and Apparel strategy. Comparing Uganda to success stories like India and China, which transformed their textile sectors through similar strategies, he highlighted the government’s inaction as a major roadblock to progress.
Cotton production in Uganda involves approximately 250,000 smallholder farmers who collectively produce around 68,913 bales annually. Despite this substantial output, Uganda continues to be a net exporter of raw cotton lint, shipping out a whopping 90 percent of its production. This leaves a mere 10 percent to be processed into finished products within the country.
The responsibility for cotton production in Uganda lies with the Cotton Development Organisation, under the Ministry of Agriculture. However, Mr. Mubiru accused the government of offering little to no support to farmers, effectively handing over the industry to ginners and cotton merchants. This hands-off approach has hindered the achievement of set targets, such as the ambitious goal outlined in the 2001/02 annual report, where the Cotton Development Organisation aimed to increase cotton production to 185,000 tonnes (or 1 million bales) by 2006 as part of a Cabinet-approved strategic export commodities program. Sadly, these targets have remained elusive, highlighting the government’s failure to nurture this promising sector.