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ISSN : 1225-8504(Print)
ISSN : 2287-8165(Online)
Journal of the Korean Society of International Agriculture Vol.33 No.1 pp.67-74

The Current Status of Opportunities for Rice Cultivation in Uganda

Soonsung Hong*, Seongsoo Hwang*, Jimmy Lamo**, Doreen Nampamya***, Tae-Seon Park***
*KOPIA Africa Team, Technical Cooperation Bureau, RDA, Jeonju, 54875, Korea
**National Crops Resources Research Institute, P. O. Box 7084, Kampala, Uganda
***KOPIA Uganda Center, National Agricultural Research Laboratories, P.O. Box 7065 Kampala, Uganda
Corresponding author (Phone) +256774825014 (E-mail)
January 14, 2021 February 19, 2021 February 24, 2021


The purpose of this article is to explore the current status of opportunities in the Ugandan rice sector in order to form informed decisions for future investment and support for the farmers. The Government of Uganda has prioritised rice as a strategic commodity for the national economy. Uganda produces up to 350,000 metric ton (MT) of rice annually, and has set a target to produce 680,000 MT by 2020. A national rice development strategy and a robust rice stakeholder platform have been put in place in order to guide potential investors. Despite the already-existing economic opportunities for the smallholder farmers who participate in producing more than 90% of the rice output in Uganda, productivity still remains low. This is primarily due to the frequent use of low-yielding rice varieties, limited farmer access to the seed of improved varieties and other yield-enhancing inputs, the limited usage of time and labour-saving technologies, and limited knowledge of good agronomic practices. There are three major high rainfall areas in the Northern, Eastern, and Western parts of the country. The mean annual rainfall is estimated at 1,180 mm, and the mean annual temperature is within the range of 18 to 35°C. Nine major varieties of rice, including Namche, Komboka, Kaiso, Wita 9, Basmat 370, IR 64, Supa, Buyu, and NERICA are being cultivated in Uganda. The two Korean rice varieties, such as KAF- 172-67 and KAF-304-287 strains, which were developed through a Korea-Africa Food & Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) project, will also be registered. This will help to increase domestic rice production, stabilize domestic prices, and make rice more affordable for consumers.

우간다 벼 재배 현황 및 발전 가능성

홍 순성*, 황 성수*, 지미 라모**, 남팜야 도린***, 박 태선***
*농촌진흥청 국외농업기술과
***KOPIA 우간다센터



    Like other Africa countries (Faye et al., 2020;Lee and Choi, 2020), rice is one of the most important cereal crop in Uganda (Bua and Ojirot, 2014). It is mostly grown by smallholders for income, although some of the household production is retained for consumption (Akongo et al., 2017). Uganda produces up to 350,000 MT of rice annually which is equivalent to import substitution of about 104 million USD per year. However, Uganda is still a net importer of rice, since domestic demand exceeds its supply/ production (Barungi and Odokonyero, 2016). The rice supply gap in Uganda is majorly caused by low volumes harvested (31.6%), unreliable supply (19.5%), poor quality supply (8.4%), high competition (8.4%), price fluctuations (4.7%), poor roads (4.2%), and limited working capital (2.2%) (Kilimo Trust, 2012). As a result, the Government of Uganda has set a target to produce 680,000 MT of rice by 2020 and generate at least USD 73 million worth of exports (MAAIF, 2016).

    Rice is also the most traded food commodity across borders in the East African Community (EAC) region, while traditional staples such as bananas are among the least traded. Rice is second to maize as the food commodity most imported into, as well as most exported from the EAC (Oonyu, 2011). Over the last decade, the consumption of rice in the EAC has increased by 360% owing to the change in eating habits with urbanization (Nanfumba et al., 2013). As a result, supply of rice in Uganda and other EAC Partner States cannot keep-up with the rapidly expanding regional market demand.

    According to the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), EAC countries import a substantial amount of rice (over 500,000 tonnes annually), valued at approximately USD 500 million a year, from countries in Asia (Kilimo Trust, 2014). Tanzania is the largest producer and consumer of rice in the EAC, the annual consumption for Tanzania is 2,048,000 MT, followed by Kenya (370,000 MT) and Uganda (350,000 MT) (Kilimo Trust, 2017).

    On the other hand, production levels are 1,848,000 MT Tanzania, 122,465 MT Kenya, and 300,000 MT Uganda. Altogether, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania require about 500,000 MT to bridge the gap between consumption and production, yet this demand keeps growing on an annual basis across the East and Central African region. Economic growth in East and Central Africa creates new markets for Ugandan rice. These markets are less demanding logistically and in terms of product standards putting Uganda at an advantage of a large share of those markets particularly DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Tanzania.

    Uganda is a signatory to the East African Common Market Protocol, and the Government is committed to the liberalized trade that will help harness this potential. Additionally, these markets are ‘protected’ by high logistic costs for overseas imports, so Ugandan farmers have competitive advantage there. Rice consumers in the East African region prefer rice varieties that are: aromatic, nonsticking, whole grained and white as well as with ability to swell when cooked. At the commercial level, up-to 80% of rice consumers in Uganda prefer aromatic rice and only 69.7% of rice marketed in Uganda is aromatic (Masette et al., 2013;Rutsaert et al., 2013). These scenarios present investment opportunities for premium aromatic rice (PAR). There is also a high demand for high amylose rice (HAR) and low amylose rice (LAR) within Uganda and in the regional markets. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to explore the current status and opportunities in the Ugandan rice sector to direct informed decisions in investments and support to the farmers.

    Uganda’s Climatic Conditions for Rice Production

    Uganda has conducive climatic conditions for the production of both irrigated and upland rice. Together with the availability of a fertile land, rice producers can focus on increasing production to supply the ready local and regional market which is a big opportunity. The rainfall pattern in most parts of the country can support the production of two crops of rice every year. Precipitation varies from 750 mm/year in the driest areas in the northeast to 1,500 mm/year in the high rainfall areas of Northern, Eastern, and Western parts of the country. Mean annual rainfall is estimated at 1,180 mm. The mean annual temperature over most of the country is in the range of 18 to 35°C, while the corresponding minimum range is 8 to 23°C. Relative humidity is high, ranging from 70 to 100% and the mean monthly evaporation rates are between 125 and 200 mm (USAID, 2013;Mubiru et al., 2018).

    Other factors that favour the production of rice include appropriate government policy, intensive national promotion of rice, availability of improved rice varieties and other relevant technologies and the increased consumption of rice driven mostly by rapid urbanization as well as the relatively high rate of population growth (Karubanga et al., 2019).

    Major Rice Production Areas and Systems in Uganda

    There are three rice production systems in Uganda namely: (i) rain-fed lowland, (ii) irrigated low-land, and (iii) upland production systems (Akongo et al., 2017). There is enormous potential for expansion of both upland and irrigated rice areas in the country.

    Over 90% of the national rice output of Uganda is produced by smallholder farmers in Eastern, Northern, and mid-Western parts of Uganda under rain fed and irrigated rice systems (Fig. 2) (Alibu et al., 2016). Rice cultivation in these regions dates back to the 1970’s, when the Chinese initiated the development of rice schemes, with the Kibimba rice scheme as a rice technology development scheme and the Doho rice scheme for seed multiplication and popularization of production.

    The latest government constructed and implemented scheme, the Olweny swamp rice irrigation project with a command area of 500 ha, went into operation in 1997 (nucleus site) and 2001 (Itek and Okile). Rice cultivation spread outwards from these schemes, the 1970’s Chineseintroduced semi-dwarf rice varieties locally known as Kaiso (K5, K85, and K98) being the most widely grown alongside other introductions like Supa and Wita-9 (Kikuchi et al., 2013).

    Another possibility is to contract growers who are already established in the irrigation schemes of Mubuku (750 ha), Agoro (745 ha), Doho (1,000 ha), and Olweny (600 ha) (Fig. 3). In spite of a long history of rice cultivation, productivity of rice among smallholder farmers in Eastern and Northern Uganda has remained low at 3.6 and 1.7 t/ha in respectively against a potential yield of 5 t/ha (Okello et al., 2019). This represents yield gaps of 39 and 90% in Eastern and Northern Uganda, respectively. Rice yields in Uganda are remarkably low at 2.5t/ha compared to other countries such as Rwanda (4.7t/ha), Kenya (4.9t/ ha), Vietnam (5.6t/ha), China (6.7t/ha), and Korea (5.3t/ha) (Barungi and Odokonyero, 2016;Verdonk et al., 2020).

    Factors Affecting Rice Growing and Productivity in Uganda

    The low rice yields in Uganda are partly attributed to the fact that the majority of rice growers are small scale farmers who hardly use agro-inputs such as improved seed, fertilisers and herbicides, and limited extension support - which would otherwise increase yields (Alibu et al., 2016;Barungi and Odokonyero, 2016).

    They highlight the following as the major factors contributing to low rice productivity;

    • 1. Limited investment irrigation – which exposes rice cultivation to risks of drought

    • 2. Limited mechanization of rice production

    • 3. Limited access of farmers to improved seed and good agronomic practices

    • 4. Poor post-harvest handling and storage practices that lead to low grain quality reducing potential income and limit market volume potential

    • 5. Inadequate access to finance, and where available, cost of borrowing is high (interest rates of up to 24% in some financial institutions)

    • 6. Insect pests and diseases

    The Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in the 2010/11-2014/15 Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) has rice as a strategic commodity with the potential contribute to increasing rural incomes and livelihoods, and improving food and nutrition security.

    Major Rice Varieties Grown in Uganda

    Rice varieties grown in Uganda range from the local varieties (first introductions) to the newly introduced and bred highly improved varieties (Miyamoto et al., 2012;Kikuchi et al., 2013;Nanfumba et al., 2013;Rutsaert et al., 2013;Barungi and Odokonyero, 2016). These include;

    • 1. Namche: These have found a niche in Northern Uganda but also grown in other parts of the country. They yield between 3000-4000 kg/ha under rain-fed conditions. Furthermore, NamChe varieties are drought tolerant, high yielding and with mild aromatic characteristics. they fit in the culinary cooking of East African major cities because they do not paste on cooking.

    • 2. Komboka: This is an aromatic rice variety that yields 4,200 kg/ha. Aromatic rice has a premium market in the Uganda.

    • 3. Kaiso (K85, K5 and K98): They are characterised by heavy grains, high spikelet fertility, high number of panicles, early maturing, ability to perform well at the wetland periphery, disease resistant and resistant to lodging.

    • 4. Wita 9: High panicle number, big sized marketable grains, resistant to lodging and early maturity.

    • 5. Basmat 370: Susceptibility to lodging and small panicle size, low yielding and prone to diseases, aromatic and highly marketable. Weak stems making it susceptible to lodging small panicle size which appear light and low yielding.

    • 6. IR 64: It is a short variety and therefore easily submerged in case of flooding, because it is short, the variety is difficult to harvest, because one needs to bend while harvesting which is very tiresome, Short in height thus easily overwhelmed by weeds.

    • 7. Supa: Late maturing, low yielding, susceptible to diseases. It is too tall therefore difficult to harvest, requires deep waters (>30 cm) and highly preferred by birds requiring extra bird keeping labour.

    • 8. Buyu: It requires deep water (>30 cm) to grow well, late maturing, has heavy grains which are difficult to detach from panicles during threshing, itching on skin during weeding and harvesting, and does not break during milling.

    • 9. New Rice for Africa (NERICA): They are resistant to major biological constraints and show differential sensitivity to drought stress and new diseases, especially brown spot disease and narrow leaf spot disease.

    Korean Rice Varieties in Uganda

    The Korean rice varieties in Uganda were developed through a Korea-Africa Food & Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (KAFACI) project. They were as a result of recurring rice diseases challenge of rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV), African rice gall midge (ARGM), Bacterial leaf streak (BLS), Bacterial leaf blight (BLB), and rice blast (BL). A breeding population from a cross of an African cultivated rice (Oryza glaberrima from Niger Delta) and Milyang 23, a Tongil-type Korean rice variety was developed for combining high-yielding and resistance to multiple biotic stresses. This was pushed by the need for Uganda to have a high yielding, early maturing, diseases resistant aromatic rice variety whose demand was high. The two varieties and their characteristics are as follows (Lamo et al., 2015);

    • 1. KAF-172-67: This is characterised by tight grain attachment, big and bold grains, high yielding (5-6t/ha), aromatic and resistant to most diseases. It is currently being used under KOPIA project and submitted for registration

    • 2. KAF-304-287: This is characterised by big and bold grains, high yielding (6-7t/ha), aromatic and resistant to most diseases. It is currently being used under KOPIA project and submitted for registration

    Possible Investment Opportunities

    The main opportunities the rice value chains include; expanding national, regional and international markets for rice and its by-products, the high EAC tariff on imported rice plus export restrictions in major producing countries protect locally produced rice, huge availability of agricultural financing for investment and unexploited land and water resources with potential to produce rice (Jjumba et al., 2016).

    Rice enterprises are more profitable at all components of the value chain compared to other cereals (maize, sorghum and finger millet) and profitability increases with investment in and use of improved production technologies such as quality seed, fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization. The relatively high gross margins across all stages of the chain provide key opportunity for maximizing returns, if investments are directed at improving crop management practices as well as running efficient businesses and supply chains.

    The market for rice by-products is underdeveloped and thus provides a huge potential for expanding end-markets for the rice sub-Sector. With the main products being paddy and milled rice, rice by-products are under-utilized, in spite of increasing availability of proven technologies to utilize them.

    The weakest links in the rice sub-sector are those that involve individual farmers and producer organizations, in either direction of the chain. However, linkages involving out-grower schemes are reported to be strong thus, the strongest supply chains are those that link input providers in out-grower schemes and leading off-takers.

    Following examples of high rice producing countries such as China, India, and Indonesia, investment opportunities can be utilized to intervene on the challenges and scale up the yield per hectare in order to accelerate growth and profitability of the sector along the value chain linkages. These are;

    • 1. Growing on a nucleus farm that hooks in small scale out growers in order to increase the yield per acre using fertiliser and herbicides;

    • 2. Establishing a sophisticated out-grower system with extension service support to strengthen the yield of smallscale farmers with relevant information, skills and improved high yielding rice seed

    • 3. Investment rice processing, storage and packaging to enhance grain quality and expand the market volume potential;

    • 4. Marketing – especially awareness creation campaigns about availability, access and use of high rice yielding inputs.

    Long-term investments plans should focus on development of irrigated rice infrastructure either along the Nile River in the Northern Uganda rice hub or around the Lake Kyoga catchment area. Uganda has one the highest irrigation potential in the world with over 15% of her surface area (37,000 sq. km out of the total area of 241,559 sq. km), covered by fresh water resources (Sridharan et al., 2019). The sum of the external and internal renewable surface water resources (the average annual river flow generated from precipitation) in Uganda amounts to 43.3 billion cubic meters per year, while the dependence ratio (proportion that originates outside the country) was 69% as of 2013.

    The present utilization rate of the internal renewable water resource is low (2.8%). The utilization rate of the entire renewable surface water resources stood at 0.01% as of 2013. If the full irrigation potential was to be exploited, the demand for water would be increased by over 400% by 2030 translating into a utilization rate of renewable surface water resource of 0.05% (MAAIF and MWE, 2017). Aware of both the challenges and opportunities, Government has elaborated this Policy to direct the implementation of irrigation interventions to ensure optimal use of available land and water resources for agricultural production and productivity to contribute effectively towards food security, wealth and employment creation, and export promotion.

    Potential Local and Regional Markets for Rice Grown in Uganda

    Most of the rice grown in Uganda is consumed locally. The main markets are the capital city of Kampala, Gulu, Jinja, Lira, Masaka, and Mbarara (Masette et al., 2013). The amount of rice reaching the trading districts depends on the proximity between the districts where the rice is grown and where the rice is exported to neighboring countries. Cross border rice trade is common between Uganda, Kenya, Northern Tanzania, and South Sudan. Up to 90% of rice produced is marketed outside the production areas; but to urban areas within the country (as shown in the map below).

    Kampala is a hub of rice business from different production districts. This is due to the fact that most of the big traders are in Kampala and also presence of good processing and marketing facilities like warehouses, big processing mills, big supermarkets, transport facilities as well as presence of income secure consumers. From Kampala, rice is transported to different district towns and also exported to countries like South Sudan, Congo, and Rwanda.


    Rice is ranked 4th (out of 12 crops) in Uganda’s Agricultural Strategic Plan (ASSP) after cotton, coffee, and maize as a strategic crop for improving household food and income security in Uganda. In terms of production, rice is the second most important cereal after maize. Uganda is still a net importer of rice, yet local consumption is growing fast. The increased local consumption of rice presents huge economic opportunities for smallholder farmers, who producer 90% of the rice in Uganda. These smallholder farmers grow rice mainly as a cash crop because of its significantly higher gross margins compared to other cereals.

    Despite the existing economic opportunities for smallholder farmers in rice farming, productivity is still low. This is mainly due to the use of low-yielding rice varieties, limited farmer-access to the seed of improved varieties, and other yield-enhancing inputs, coupled with the limited use of time/labour-saving technologies. Besides, the majority of smallholder farmers have limited knowledge of good agronomic practices (GAPs) in rice.

    Commercial opportunities for smallholder farmers in rice farming can be unlocked by exploring the aforementioned prospects of rice cultivation in Uganda. Nine varieties of rice including Namche are being cultivated in Uganda, and KAF-172-67 and KAF-304-287 strains that the Korean rice varieties in Uganda were developed through a KAFACI project will be registered.

    적 요

    우간다에서 쌀은 식량, 농가소득 및 안보를 위한 전략적 작 물로 목화, 커피, 옥수수에 이어 우간다의 농업 전략 계획 (ASSP)에서 우선순위12개 작물 중 4번째로 선정될 정도로 매 우 중요한 작물이다. 쌀은 생산 측면에서 옥수수에 이어 두 번째로 중요한 곡물이다. 최근 우간다에서는 쌀 소비가 빠르 게 증가함과 동시에 매년 쌀 수입 또한 비례적으로 빠르게 증 가하고 있다.

    쌀의 소비 증가는 우간다 쌀 생산량의 90%를 차지하는 소 규모 재배 농민들에게 엄청난 경제적 기회를 제공하고 있는데 이는 쌀은 다른 곡물에 비해 상대적으로 훨씬 높은 금액으로 판매되고 이익 또한 높기 때문에 현금 작물로서 벼 재배 면적 이 빠르게 증가하고 있는 실정이다. 그러나 벼 생산성은 여전 히 낮은 수준인데, 이는 주로 수확량이 적은 쌀 품종의 사용, 개선 된 품종의 종자에 대한 농부의 접근 제한, 낙후된 재배 기술, 비료 및 농약 사용이 매우 저조하기 때문이다.

    우간다의 쌀 재배 현황과 여건에 대하여 조사한 바는 아래 와 같이 정리할 수 있다.

    • 1. 쌀 생산을 위한 기후적 여건: 연평균 강수량은 1,180 mm 정도이고 연평균 기온은18도에서 35도 사이로 벼 재배에 좋은 기후적 여건이다.

    • 2. 주요 재배 지역: 우간다에는 3곳의 주요 벼 재배 중심지 역이 있다. 동쪽 지역은 주로 관개시설과 강수에 의존하는 밭 벼를 재배하고 있으며, 북쪽과 중서부 지역은 논벼를 주로 재 배하고 있다. 우간다 쌀 생산량의 90%를 차지하는 소규모 재 배 농민들은 주로 위의 3지역에서 벼를 생산하고 있다.

    • 3. 벼 생산성에 영향을 미치는 요소들: 제한적 관개시설과 기계화, 그리고 양질의 종자 부족과 낮은 수준의 농업기술 등 이 낮은 생산성의 주요 요소들이며, 수확 후 관리 기술과 저 장 시설 부족, 충분하지 못한 재정적 지원 그리고 병해충 등 의 요소들이 있다.

    • 4. 주요 벼 품종: 우간다 현지에서 주로 재배되는 벼 품종은 9종으로서 다음과 같다. Namche, Komboka, Kaiso, Wita 9, Basmat 370, IR 64, Supa, Buyu 및 NERICA 품종이다.

    • 5. 농촌진흥청 한-아프리카 농식품 기술협력 협의(KAFACI) 를 통해 높은 생산성과 질병 저항성을 목적으로 개발 후 육종 된 두 한국 품종(KAF-172-67과 KAF-304-287)은 우간다에서 등록절차가 진행될 예정이다.


    This work was supported by the project: “Accelerated adoption of improved aromatic and high yielding rice among Smallholder Rice Farmers in Uganda”. We are grateful to financial support of the South Korean Government through the Korea Program for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology (KOPIA), Rural Development Administration (RDA), Republic of Korea. And we thank National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) for the institutional and technical support towards the successful implementation of this work. The assistance provided by Jimmy Lamo from NARO for comments was greatly appreciated.



    Major rice-producing hubs in Uganda. The Eastern hub mainly produces irrigated and rain-fed lowland rice, while the Northern and Mid-Western hubs predominantly produce upland rice


    Map of Uganda showing the distribution of wetlands and water bodies in Uganda as well as the location of the major irrigation schemes.


    Map showing rice flow from producing districts to markets (Kilimo Trust, 2012).

    Red arrow: rice from trade districts to trade areas; Red donut: rice trading districts; Green arrow: rice from production districts; Green donut: rice producing districts



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