By Lominda Afedraru
The major markets for barley in Uganda are the brewing companies, which take up 90% of barley grown by farmers. Other consumers of barley are fish farms, which use barley as an algaecide to naturally reduce algae growth in fish ponds.
To a small extent the livestock industry is also using barley as supplement to their animal feeds. Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) has entered contract farming agreements with smallholders in Kigezi region in Western Uganda and the Sebei region in Eastern Uganda to grow barley. Sorghum is grown in most parts of Northern and Western Uganda.
The agriculture manager at UBL, Joseph Kawuki, said that the collaboration with farmers in the Kigezi region was benefitting both parties. A company called Solidaridad provides advisory service to the farmers on best agronomy practices in order to get better yields, including post-harvest handling. Solidaridad has deployed agronomists in all the barley growing areas in Kigezi to sensitise farmers to adopt the best agronomy practices.
As a result of the collaboration, farmers in Kigezi improved the yield capacity from 400 kg per hectare in 2020 to 1,200 kg per hectare in 2022. This means more money in the pocket for the farmers. Best practice to adopt Gerald Assimwe, the Coordinator Solidaridad Kigezi region,
says that barley farmers have a unique challenge of maximising grain yield while maintaining certain quality standards to receive premium prices by the malting industry.
Yields depend on variety, but in general barley grain should have high germination rate of 95%. There are a number of barley varieties grown by farmers in Uganda and these include the hybrid Nguzo and local varieties such as Sabini and Karen. UBL recommends hybrid varieties Cocktail, with yield capacity of 800kg per hectare, and Gracie variety which yields between 1,000kg to 1,200 kg per hectare.
Diseases are a challenge for barley producers because they lead to yield loss as well quality reductions. The common foliar diseases of malting barley are fusarium head blight, net blotch and spot blotch. The common pests are birds and rats, which cut off the stems. Farmers are advised to clear the surroundings of their fields to avoid harbouring of rats.
Barley is harvested when fully mature. Green seeds lower malting quality. Once the grain has dried to having 13.5% or less seed moisture content, it can be harvested. Erasmus Twesigye is the founder member of Mukaadamo Kawungye Barley Farmers Association, which has over 500 members, in Kabale district.
Farmers from this area began engaging in barley farming in 2017 when a UBL team went around sensitising them about the benefits of growing the crop.
The association has a joint store where farmers bulk their produce.
The association is able to bulk 500 tons of barley in a good season and most farmers own between 1-3 acres of land. Kanyagabo Basigaba Farmers Association in Kisoro district with 35 members produces between 120-130 bags per season. In Eastern Uganda the farmers are linked to the industry by agents who are selected farmers growing barley.
Alex Chele from Kapchorwa is in charge of mobilising farmers from the region and there are over 200 farmers engaged in growing the crop. Each farmer is able to harvest 70 bags of unshelled grain. Contract farming the case of sorghum UBL has also contracted sorghum farmers across Northern and Eastern regions.
One prominent farm owned by Rigil Agrotech Company produces 7,000 tons of sorghum for the industry. The farm obtains sorghum seed from UBL which is purchased at Shs11, 000 per kg. Its workers carry out seed dressing to avoid seed damage by soilborne diseases and to ensure sufficient germination.
In an acre seed ratio of 4 kg is required. The high-yield Chromatin hybrid variety is particularly grown to meet the demand by UBL. The industry buys part of sorghum bulked by Abur Lango Cooperative Society in Northern Uganda owned by a group of youth. They are able to purchase sorghum grain from farmer fields which is processed and bulked ready for uptake by the UBL.
They sell each Kg at Shs1, 200 per kg.