The agricultural sector accounts for 24.1% of Uganda's GDP and 62.9% of the employed population. This is the main activity for the majority of the country's residents, however, the employment-to-GDP ratio demonstrates insufficient efficiency of agricultural production, which is explained by the fact that most of the agricultural activity falls on low-tech subsistence farming with limited use of high-quality seeds and fertilizers and the lack of modern irrigation systems.
Nevertheless, Uganda's climate is conducive to the development of agriculture. The country has high precipitation levels, especially in the southern part, while the northern territories are less suitable for agriculture, and in the arid northeast only cattle breeding is engaged. Agriculture still has a lot of untapped capacity, since today a significant part of the vast fertile lands of Uganda is not used.
The Government of the country considers agriculture as one of the key areas of development in which it is possible to increase the number of jobs and, consequently, increase the welfare of the population. The main task is to increase agricultural productivity.
The basis of Uganda's agricultural sector is crop production. The main cultivated crop is plantains. In general, Uganda is among the world leaders in the production of banana crops. In 2021, the volume of planters grown amounted to 9,200.0 thousand tons, which is 5.7% less than in 2020, but such fluctuations are mainly caused by the influence of weather conditions. So, in comparison with 2017, the country managed to double the production of this crop.
The average annual growth rate of cultivated planters for 2017-2021 was 18.8%. Vegetable growing is also developed in the country.
The volume of vegetables, root crops and tubers grown in 2021 amounted to 5,553.1 thousand tons (+14.4% by 2020). The main crops are cassava and sweet potato, the production amounted to 2,679.5 and 1,267.7 thousand tons, respectively. In Uganda, sugar cane is also grown, the production volumes in 2017-2021 were approximately 5 300 – 5 500 thousand tons. Corn is the main grain crop (2 800.0 thousand tons), while beans accounted for 81.4% in the structure of leguminous production (855.8 thousand tons).
According to FAO data, Uganda is among the top 10 largest coffee producers, while demonstrating the highest average annual growth rates in the volume of production of this product among the top ten countries. In 2017-2021, the indicator grew annually by an average of 5.5%, reaching 374.8 thousand tons by 2021.
Animal husbandry is also an important industry in the country due to the increasing demand for dairy and beef cattle products from the growing population of Uganda. Cow's milk production in 2017-2021 showed an average annual growth rate of 0.9%. The volume of products produced in 2021 amounted to 1,671.6 thousand tons, which is 0.7% more than in 2020. The segment of beef cattle breeding is mainly represented by the production of beef, pork and poultry meat. In 2021 the total production of meat and offal amounted to 550,6 thousand tons, which is 1.6% more than 2020. About 193.7 thousand tons accounted for beef production (35.2% in the structure of meat and offal production), while pork production amounted to 127.6 thousand tons (23.2%), and poultry meat — 68.4 thousand tons (12.4%). Also in 2021, the country produced about 1.04 billion pieces of chicken eggs.
Despite the fact that Uganda is landlocked, the country has large reserves of aquatic biological resources, having access to the largest lake on the African continent — Lake Victoria. Fish production in 2021 amounted to 712.5 thousand tons, which is 3.2% more than in 2020. The average annual growth rate for 2017-2021 was 9.1%. Most of the production is accounted for by catch, but the aquaculture sector is actively developing in the country. By 2021, 125.7 thousand tons of products were produced in aquaculture, which is almost a fifth of the total fish production in the country.
According to the results of 2021 Uganda imported agricultural products worth 796.6 million US dollars, which is 21.9% more than in 2020. The average annual growth rate of imports of agricultural products of the country for 2017-2021 amounted to 16.7%.
In the structure of imports of agricultural products of Uganda in value terms in 2021, rice has the largest share (19.6% of imports), wheat (17.4%) and palm oil (11.6%). In total, these products accounted for 48.7% of imports of agricultural products of the country or 388.1 million US dollars. The top 10 imported products accounted for 69.7%.
In 2021, the main suppliers of agricultural products to Uganda were Kenya (27.9% of imports), Tanzania (24.2%) and Argentina (8.4%). The share of the top 10 countries accounted for 83.5% of Uganda's agricultural imports in value terms.
Imports of agricultural products from Australia increased most significantly in 2021 (by 417 times or by 34.5 million US dollars due to the start of wheat supplies), Argentina (by 2.2 times or by 36.0 million US dollars) and Tanzania (by 74.8% or by 82.6 million US dollars). These three countries have increased, mainly, grain supplies.
In 2021, the volume of exports of Uganda's agriculture exceeded $ 1.6 billion, an increase of 24.6% relative to the level of 2020. The average annual growth rate of the country's agricultural exports in value terms for 2017-2021 was -1.8% due to a significant reduction in supplies in 2019-2020.
The basis of exports of agricultural products of Uganda in 2021 was coffee (594.2 million US dollars or 36.5% of supplies). The top 3 export positions also included beet and cane sugar (101.6 million US dollars or 6.2%), fish fillets and other fish meat (99.4 million US dollars or 6.1%). The top 10 exported types of products accounted for 65.5% of Uganda's agricultural exports in value terms. The export of vegetable oils increased most noticeably in 2021 (by 67.2% or by 30.7 million US dollars).
The most significant reduction was shown by the supply of fish and seafood (by 19.1% or by $29.0 million).
The main importer of Ugandan agricultural products is South Sudan: in 2021, it accounted for 16.3% ($265.5 million) of the country's agricultural exports. The leading importing countries also include Italy (12.0%) and Kenya (9.9%). The ten largest importers accounted for 70.9% (US$ 1.2 billion) of Uganda's agricultural exports.
The Netherlands showed the most significant increase in the volume of purchases of agricultural products in Uganda (by 59.8% or by 36.3 million US dollars), in 2021 it purchased 9.3 times (by 17.7 million US dollars) more cocoa beans in Uganda and 31.6% (by 8.1 million US dollars) more coffee, than in 2021.