Like most Ugandans, my affinity for the cooked flesh of a pig can take on legendary proportions if dieticians and medical professionals look the other way.
Whether it is roasted, fried, stewed or even stood in the sun for just long enough to kill off all possibility of disease, pork is a welcome item on any menu I come into contact with.
In December last year the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) announced that Uganda is the biggest consumer of pork on the continent. Most weekends in most of our towns will appear to confirm this – both in domestic and commercial settings.
The news stories covering this most important issue quoted ILRI Country Representative Dr. Ben Lukuyu saying that Uganda came second to China in global pork consumption numbers at 3.5kilogrammes per capita.
But sites like www.pork.org list the top ten pork producing countries as China, the European Union (which is clearly a cheat entry), the United States, Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico and Japan. China leads with 53,500 metric tonnes and Japan trails with 1,280 metric tonnes last year.
The same site lists 42 of the world’s top pork consuming countries, starting with China, and does not mention Uganda at all, which made Dr. Lukuyu’s quote appear questionable.
Eventually, I found on the internet an article from 2014 that read, “Correction 21 July 2014: This story originally incorrectly said that Uganda is Africa’s number one pork-consuming nation. It has now been corrected to clarify that Uganda is East Africa’s top pork-consuming nation.”
Either all the journalists left out the “East” or the good doctor himself made that error – TWO YEARS LATER.
In 2014 various reports said Uganda slaughters about 3.5million pigs every year from about 1.3million households.
The stupid thing, though, is that there are reports that Uganda actually imports pork from other countries as well. Of course, we all know that there is a brand of sausages that is made in another country that is found to be popular here, so those reports are certainly true. Plus, we have cans of processed pork on supermarket shelves.
Even more incredible was the statistic that in 2012 alone Africa imported US$295million worth of pork and pork products from other continents!
I am not writing this just to work up an appetite.
See, last week I learnt that China has introduced its first ‘Pork Price Index’. This is a tool of economic analysis that they say will help farmers understand the market better and therefore serve it to their benefit and those of the world’s majority of pork eaters.
They are worried about both the availability of pork and the price at which it sells, those Chinese.
They are so serious about their pork that they have the government managing the sector, established a ‘strategic pork reserve’, and have the equivalent of the Uganda Securities Exchange (NOT in dollar or Yuan terms, of course) monitoring its trade as part of a government ministry.
So what are we doing importing pork, if we are the biggest consumers of the stuff on the continent? This is one of our niches in East Africa, so where is the Uganda Pork Authority? The business of pork isn’t just about the delicious plated end of the sector, there are many ebigenderako as well – in the real sense as presented on the lusaniya, as well as the feeds pigs consume, the by-products, and a MASSIVE market on the continent.
So, again, what are we doing importing pork? Why are there so few Ugandan-made pork sausages of a quality that we can export rather than laud imports?
I’ll be asking more of these questions in about two month’s time at the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole, during the Uganda Pork Expo (June 24-25th).
And in between sampling various types of pork products, I will be looking out for people mobilising Ugandans to produce more pigs in larger numbers. One day we will stop finding embarrassing statistics on the internet that say the biggest pig farm in Uganda holds 60 pigs; but only if people spend more on rearing the livestock than they do in second hand Japanese cars.
I also hope to meet economists and business development planners who will do the maths around getting at least one million Ugandans to rear one pig each so that we instantly double our national pig production.
And finally some logical people who will work out that sausages, because of their constitution and cost of production, should not be such ridiculously expensive food items. Or perhaps an academic to explain to me why in most organised countries these are the cheapest meats in the supermarket yet in Uganda they are considered prestigious.
If all these elements come together and logic reigns supreme then we will be gathering pearls from pigs.