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How Agriculture Sector Survived Covid 19 to Remain Strong Among Top Performers

The agriculture sector’s value to the economy has remained largely unchanged and in some areas, increased during the one year of the Covid 19 pandemic.

This resilience has given the authorities more incentives to focus on the sector in the development programs like the National Development Plan III and the Parish Model of Development.

Agricultural production slightly fell but remained strong unlike other sectors like tourism, hospitality, transport and education, some of which almost came to a halt.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, agriculture, which is the source of livelihood to two-thirds of Ugandans, contributed 23.7% in the financial year 2020/2021, compared to 23.9% in the previous year.

Agriculture comes second in contribution to the economy, behind services (47%) and industry (about 22%). Unfortunately, the sector employs the majority of Ugandans, while the largest contributor to GDP, services, employs 20% and industry 7.

This means agriculture currently contributes marginally to the growth of personal incomes or per capita incomes. This is the main reason why more government resources have to go into agriculture to improve production and productivity by modernizing the sector.

During the second quarter 2020/2021 (October to December 2020), the sector grew 3.1% compared to a high 8.8% it had registered in the same period of the previous year, before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Within the year of the pandemic itself, the sector saw fluctuations, with the first quarter (March to May) presenting the highest decline in output, as most of the economy was shut.

This was mainly because of restrictions on transport, which affected the movement of farmers to work, but also the movement of products to local, regional and international markets.

Other factors included the sharp fall in the extension work as many officials could not move, as well as limitations on access to financial services, with most micro-lenders unable to access their smallholder farmer clients.

In value terms, however, the sector added 7.219 Trillion Shillings to the economy compared to 7 Billion Shillings during the same quarter in the previous year.

The sector’s performance saw mixed fortunes with some industries performing better, while others declined.

There was an increase in the cash crop growing activities, for example, especially in the coffee sub-sector, while fishing activities declined significantly.

According to UBOS, the GDP is estimated to have grown marginally by 8.6 trillion (US$2.5 billion) to about Ushs148.3 trillion (US$42.4 billion).

Considering the whole financial year 2020/2021 however, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector grew by 3.5 percent due to an increase in cash crop, food crop and livestock activities.

Cash crop activities grew by 6.7%, food crop activities by 4.1% and livestock registered the highest growth of 7.8%.

“This position was supported by government interventions through the provision of extension services and favorable weather conditions. Additionally, taxes on products grew by 6.8 percent from -1.6 percent the previous financial year following a pick-up in economic activity,” according to a not from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

Agriculture, along with the movement of cargo, was also given priority by the East African Community heads of state, who committed not to impose measures that affected the survival of the sectors during the pandemic.

These include movement of produce, inputs and support workers.

There was also an increase in the number of people engaging in agriculture, either as farmers or as employees on farms, as they sought alternative sources of income, following the closure of most of their activities.

This, however, also had negative effects on the economy, as reports show an increase in environmental degradation. This was because more people had to get land to practice agriculture, and ended up invading forests.

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