24 February 1998
El Niño hits Africas best

FREAK winds wrought by the El Niño weather phenomenon have hit agriculture in Uganda – “the most consistent good performer in Africa”, according to the World Bank. The weather has placed growth targets out of reach and fuelled inflation by increasing the cost of staple foods.

Agriculture accounts for 44% of Ugandas Gross Domestic Product and more than 90% of exports.

Cotton has been hardest hit, with the dry spell in April, May and June preventing farmers from planting. A 45% drop is expected to 60,000 bales in 1997/98 as a result. This is the biggest drop since the industrys collapse during the Idi Amin years.

Coffee, the mainstay of the Ugandan economy has been hit by torrential rains, but it is in slightly better shape than cotton. The main Robusta crop could fall as low as 3.5 million bags this year, compared with last years record 4.23m, worth a drop of about $60m.

The industry is encouraging farmers to replace three-year-old trees, which are more prone to disease.

The tea sector is enjoying such a strong recovery it can shrug of the weather.

Reform of land laws to provide secure tenure, coupled with improved agriculture, have helped Uganda earns the World Banks approval.

  • Financial Times 24/02/98 page 13-16 (Uganda survey)