According to Prof Gordon Wavamunno, who recently wrote the book 'Independent Uganda: Reflections and Recollections', at one time flowers were all the rage in Uganda, which swayed a few Ugandans who could afford the heavy investments to establish large flower farms only to be disappointed. In a two-part series, compiled by Joseph Bahingwire, Wavamunno shares his business experiences.
"I too was attracted to flower farming and I started Victoria Flowers on the shores of Lake Nalubaale, a stone's throw away from Entebbe International Airport. I believed that everything had been stitched together properly. The infrastructure was excellent.
"I had experts from Israel and I put in the money to make sure that everything worked properly. Given the propaganda issuing from many quarters, we the indigenous African flower farmers believed that this is now our moment to make money almost effortlessly. Many Ugandan Africans who went into flower farming went into grief. I can mention the late Dr Samson Kisekka (former vice president), Mr Paul Kagimu, Dr Mwesiga and others.
"Most of us went into the flower growing business without fully appreciating the flower cartels we were up against dominated by Europeans who made our entry into the flower market hell. At any time they would raise the phytosanitary factors to remove us from their markets. It is also important for our products to have a sound base in the local market.
"Ugandan Africans have largely no flower culture and the domestic consumption of flowers is negligible. And this lack of a substantive domestic market has led to the failure of many agricultural products such as ginger, vanilla, red pepper. For all these products we have to depend on the tender mercies of foreign markets where more often than not we have no competitive advantage.
"There has also been lack of commercialisation activity in our embassies abroad. The government should ensure that our products get the necessary support abroad. Without this support, we are often shortchanged and destroyed in these foreign markets."