Miriam Katunze, a research analyst with the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) presented a paper at the 11th African Economic Conference held from December 5th to 7th 2016, in Abuja, Nigeria.

Titled “Uganda's warehouse receipt systems: improving market performance and productivity,” and co-authored by Annette Kuteesa, Theresa Mijumbi and Denis Mahebe, the paper documented perceived benefits and challenges of private sector stakeholders of the e-Warehousing Receipt System (e-WRS) in Uganda.

Warehouse Receipting System is a structure that allows farmers access markets, and financial services using their commodity as collateral. The system enables farmers prevent post-harvest losses through bulking and storage.

The results reveal that while the market structure and conduct of the pilot WRS was implemented as theorized, it faced various barriers that led to poor market performance.

For example, despite farmers’ meticulousness to ensure good quality grain, the authors’ assessment suggests majority do not understand the composition of cereal grades required within the system.

In 2007, USAID called upon Banks to feel secure with WRS since they can have priority to all proceeds upon liquidation of the farmers’ harvests. This arose due to stringent collateral requirements from banks and few bank branches. In a good note banks have been investing in price and weather monitoring to control price fluctuations.

Despite the challenges, actors are optimistic that reinstating the WRS will lead to better access to markets and credit.

The paper recommends that farmers be given training on use of Information Communication Technology for them to be able to operate the e-WRS.

It further calls for capacity strengthening of cooperatives and farmer groups particularly in the areas of finance, marketing and decision-making and asks Ministry of Agriculture to spearhead the promotion of grades and standards and not leave the responsibility to private sector.

According to Miriam Katunze, the paper relied on qualitative data mainly from Focus Group Discussions and Key Informant Interviews conducted in Masindi and Jinja districts where maize is grown and stocked under Masindi Seed and Grain Growers Limited and Agroways warehouse.

Uganda has had previous public efforts to introduce the WRS. The Ministry of Trade for example initiated the WRS project between 2000-2008, with focus on coffee and cotton. The WRS act was passed in 2006, followed by WRS regulations of 2007 and the recent 2015 formation of Uganda WRS Authority (UWRSA), which is responsible for introduction of the E-WRS.

Once operationalized, Katunze believes e-WRS can play a very important role in the development of agriculture, by permitting farmers store their products when prices are very low until the market recovers.

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