Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde has set up an inter-ministerial committee to address challenges the horticulture industry in Uganda is currently facing.
Kyambadde said the committee would help iron out all the grey areas to the ease of the flower business in Uganda. The minister disclosed this at a meeting of investors in the sector, labour unions, officials from the trade ministry and officials from the ministry of gender, labour and social development in Kampala.
“This inter-ministerial committee is to help coordinate and find a lasting solution to the challenges in the horticulture sector. We have a lot to do in the areas of ensuring that all firms have occupational health and safety measures, ensuring that workers are trained and sensitized on chemical use and management,” she said.
She noted that there is need to create an enabling environment for local and foreign investors in the flower business being one of the top foreign exchange earners contributing close to $30m in export revenue and employing over 8,500 with women over 80%.
“In 2015, Uganda was the largest fifth largest exporter of live plants for planting and cut flowers to European Union but it seems there is a sustained negative campaign by self seeking individuals to put pressure on the farms to get out of business,” said Kyambadde.
This follows media reports that on the 14th of October 2016, 80 workers were exposed to body poisoning at Royal Van Zanteen, a Dutch flower farm in Bulaga Wakiso district.
It is alleged that on the fateful day, the farm managers directed teams of workers, all women to cut flowers from a green house which was fumigated with metam sodium chemical hence exposing them to chemical poisoning due to lack of protective gear.
This prompted human rights and women rights organizations like Action aid international and the association of women lawyers (FIDA) to issue a statement condemning the violation of women and workers’ rights calling for investigations into the allegations to bring culprits to book.
However, Kyambadde said this is an isolated incident and that with the committee in place all workers will be trained to chemical use and management as well as doing periodic inspection of farms to ensure the adherence to the laws regulating the horticulture sector.
She said the technical committee would be tasked to look into challenges and fashion out a pragmatic solution to all issues. On the committee are officials from ministries of trade, industry and cooperatives, agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, gender, labour and social development, internal affairs, the private sector foundation, labour union of workers.