Uganda’s earnings from export processing zones grew to a record high of $1.2 billion in 2020 from $154 million the previous year, a new report has revealed.
The report by the Uganda Free Zones Authority shows that for two years in a row, semi-processed gold was the driver of exports, accounting for 93 percent of total export earnings at $1.1 billion.
Flower and horticulture exports ranked second, accounting for 3.7 percent of exports at $46 million. Tobacco ranked third, accounting for 3.1 percent of exports at $38 million, the report shows.
Wheat flour exports recorded a 65 percent decline to $1 million in 2020 from $4 million registered in 2019.
Sandalwood essential oils earned the country $730,000 in 2020, an increase from $299,000 registered in 2019 while cocoa beans exports earned $160,000. Underground natural calcium phosphates brought the least export earnings at $5,000.
Uganda Free Zones Authority Executive Director Hez Kimoomi Alinda said the positive performance in 2020 was driven by increased mineral and tobacco processing and export.
“Simba Gold Refinery Limited, M/s Metal Testing and Smelting Limited and Aurnish Trading Limited were leading exporters during financial year 2020-21, accounting for 93 percent of all total export earnings generated from free zones,” he said.
Other major exporters in 2020 included M/S Alliance One Tobacco Uganda which grows and processes tobacco leaf at Nilus Free Zone and exports through the Mombasa port.
The report showed that the United Arab Emirates remained the major destination for exports from free zones, with significant increase to $1.16 billion in 2020 from $106.4 million the previous year, most of it from gold trade.
Exports to the UAE represented 93 percent of total free zones trade. Netherlands ranked second contributing $39 million in 2020, mostly from flower exports.
“Other major destinations for the free zones originating exports were Kenya ($19 million), Belgium ($6 million), Turkey ($2 million), Germany ($2 million), Italy ($2 million), USA ($1.9 million), Russia ($1.5 million) and South Sudan $1.2 million,” he said.
Uganda also exported to Indonesia, South Africa, Tunisia, South Korea, Ukraine, Japan, Hungary, Norway, Kuwait, Ghana and Poland.
Mr Alinda noted that the free zone generated $32 million, with M/s Wagagai and M/s Rosebud Limited the leading flower exporters in 2020 with the two free zones collectively generating $20 million in export earnings.