Seruwo Solomon is the Marketing and Business Development Manager for Bukoola Chemical Industries Limited. He spoke to Julius Businge about the company’s operations and opportunities for the 2021/2022 national budget:
Briefly, talk about Bukoola Chemical Industries Ltd operations in Uganda?
Bukoola Chemical Industries is one of the oldest and largest agro-chemical distributing companies in the East African region. For more than 45 years we have remained committed to consistently importing, repacking, and distributing quality crop protection products in the region. BCIL’s current geographic coverage is nationwide in both in Uganda and Tanzania with an anticipated market reach spanning through the East and Central African region with its headquarters in Kampala, Uganda. We take keen emphasis in building key relationships with various stakeholders in the agriculture value chain that include smallholder farmers, commercial farmers, regulators, cooperatives, suppliers, manufacturers, NGOs and agro-processors.
There have been mixed reactions regarding the recently read National Budget for FY2021/22 in line with promoting agriculture sector in general. What’s your take?
The budget allocation remains limited given the required intervention to progress agriculture in the country. Against many competing priorities, we can imagine allocating scarce resources is a challenge. The reality however remains that given agriculture’s potential, prioritising it by intentionally allocating requisite resources can contribute immensely to the improvement of livelihoods of players in the sector and subsequently our economy.
Government has moved fast to exempt inputs for agriculture sector; how has this impacted your business over time?
This is one of strategic decisions government has made overtime in a bid to stimulate agriculture in the country by promoting use of improved inputs. We are happy with it. Agriculture inputs have remained affordable because of this decision. The pesticide industry has for example grown tremendously in the last 10 years, delivering into the hands of food producers technologies that have enabled them increase food production to feed our still growing population.
Why should farmers opt for your products instead of others currently being marketed in Uganda?
We place keen emphasis on quality and therefore provide our clients with only superior products and services. Everyone in the company strives for excellence, creativity, and professionalism. Our people are committed to strong ethical principles and uncompromising commitment to strong morals and values in all areas of our business. We listen and act on client’s feedback.
There have been concerns about counterfeits/fake agriculture inputs including chemicals that have made farmers make losses. How have you responded to this as a company?
We are incorporating features with products to enable identification for branded induction seals. Mass education about how to identify counterfeit, dangers associated with counterfeit pesticides is what we do whenever we have the chance. We have a toll free helpline where affected farmers can report for assistance. Partnerships with different agencies such as the ministry of agriculture. ACN, QG Group to enhance awareness campaigns against counterfeits.
How wide is your distribution network in the country given that some farmers farm in remote/hard-to-reach areas?
We distribute our products across the entire country, working with and through trusted agro-input business in every corner. The pesticide product/solution you need may be just next door.
How has COVID-19 impacted on your revenues as a business and how have you responded to the tough measures put in place by government to tame its spread?
Agriculture with support from government has fortunately continued, food being a basic need. We as key players have remained committed to supporting farmers and farm input businesses with uninterrupted supply of crop protection solutions. Much of the disruptions have come from our supply chains, global logistics and local forwarding arrangements. We commiserate with all the families that have suffered loss of loved ones to the pandemic and encourage everyone to take responsibility for their health and life by strictly implementing the standard operating procedures. All our staff have routinely been tested for COVID 19, work places are frequently sanitized with strict monitoring and adherence to the health and workplace guidelines.
Lastly, what message would you give to farmers who are skeptical about using chemicals/fertilizers on their farmlands?
We do not have much option. With increasing populations and demand for food, our decreasing cultivated land for food production must yield a lot more than it used to. This is in addition to changing environment with outbreak of all sorts of various pests and diseases, climate change and declining soil fertility. The only viable way to do that is by using agricultural technology including pesticides, fertilizers and various seed technologies. Fortunately, just like anything else, once these are well regulated, adopted and used responsibly, we can sustainably produce enough nutritious and safe food for both the current and future generations.