The overall objective of this intervention is to commercialise apple production involving provision of support to the production and distribution of quality clean, grafted pest and disease tolerant apple seedlings. Based on agro-climatic conditions suitable for apple production, the programme initially targeted production in five districts namely; Kabale, Kisoro, Bushenyi, Kabarole and Kapchorwa. However, it has expanded to cover other districts with over 3 million seedlings distributed since 2014.
Apple is a temperate Climate fruit that was introduced in Uganda specifically in Kabale District in 1999. It is being cultivated as a cash crop in highlands. The fruit has now attracted more than 100,000 families who are benefiting from growing apples, pears, plums, peaches and grapes. Due to favourable temperatures, the Government has zoned the highlands of Kigezi sub-region into temperate fruit production area.
Apple growing has spread to the highlands in Eastern Uganda mainly in Bugisu, Bukedi and Sebei sub regions in areas around Mt. Elgon. There are also a number of farmers in Rwenzori highlands who have taken up apple growing.
Currently, the Uganda government is promoting apple production under the National Agricultural Advisory services (NAADS) programme in the highlands of Kigezi, Bugisu, Bukedi and Sebei sub regions
Varieties of Apples in Uganda
- Anna; this is imported from South Africa
- Golden Dorset; imported from South Africa.
- Ugandan apple growers have an advantage over fruit farmers in Europe or South Africa can produce two crops per year instead of one.
- The Apples grown in Uganda are quite tasty.
Government support to promote Apple Growing
At present, apple production lies with small-holder family farmers and they are commercialising it in the highlands in south-western and Eastern Uganda with a few large scale farmers. To support them, the government of Uganda has launched a number of initiatives.
One such step is the promotion of commercial apple development under the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture. It is an initiative for increasing farmers’ income. A successful transition to agricultural growth in Uganda depends on how effectively many farmers can move out of subsistence agriculture and take over commercial agriculture in a sustainable manner.
Through NAADS, farmers are supported with apple seedlings for multiplication.
Favourable conditions for Apples
In Uganda’s southwestern highlands of Kigezi, areas around Mt Rwenzori and Mt Elgon, the temperatures range between 2 degrees Celsius and 29 degrees Celsius, averaging 15 degrees Celsius from May to July.
However, like most of Africa, Uganda is vulnerable to climate change with rainstorms, heat waves, drought and floods affecting people. These factors have put extra pressure on the agribusiness sector to generate employment opportunities in rural areas.
Apple growing has the potential to make a major contribution to poverty reduction and improved nutrition. What is needed is diversification of livelihood opportunities. Apple commercialisation is a good option in this respect. Apples are high-value perennial fruit trees of commercial, nutritional and environmental importance if included in farming systems. It can help diversify income for farmers and improve their capacity to adapt to climatic extremes affecting the annual crops.
Though apple production in Uganda is a profitable venture, there are still major limiting factors such as intensive labour and inadequate experience of farmers.
As with most horticultural fruit trees, commercial apple production is both knowledge and labour intensive. Farmers need to know how to manage trees, soil, water and grafting techniques as well as how to tackle pests and diseases. All these require labour and knowledge.
However, the advantage of apples over annual crops is that once established, farmers do not have to replant trees for a long time. The cost of tree establishment is a one-off, but management is a continuous process.
Another challenge is that many farmers are struggling to commercialise apple crops due to poor quality. The local varieties are less preferred at markets, as they are poor in taste. Hence, they are not able to compete with imported fruits.
Challenges in Apple Farming
- Apple seedlings are imported and costly
- Birds and thieves are giving many farmers sleepless nights.
- Few areas are favourable for Apple Growing
- High competition with imported apples
Uganda’s apples command higher prices than tropical fruits such as pineapples and passion fruit. To date, more than 1,000 farmers are engaged in growing apples to supply the domestic market as well as the neighbouring countries of Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Most of the Apples sold at various supermarkets are imported from South Africa and very few come from within Uganda.