Leveraging Roselle-Hibiscus Production & Marketing to Increase Household Incomes for Smallholder Farmers in Uganda

This publication presents findings of the Study of Leveraging Roselle-Hibiscus Production and Marketing to Increase Household Incomes for Smallholder Farmers in Uganda. Roselle-Hibiscus is an ideal crop for developing countries if market demand is favorable. It is drought tolerant, relatively easy to grow, not suitable for mechanized harvest, labor intensive to process, and can be grown as part of multi-cropping system.

Like many specialty botanical products, market information is not readily available for Roselle. Whereas roselle-hibiscus is increasingly becoming important in Uganda agro-processing industry, prices and production are not tracked like a conventional  agricultural commodity and there are few, if any, published market reports. Additionally, the commodity has not attracted many farmers to have it grown much as it fetches a relatively high price per kilogram compared to a good-sized butch of bananas. It is upon this backdrop that ACSA conducted this study.

The study provides an overview of Roselle-hibiscus production, processing, and trading in all the regions of Uganda and in the east and Central African region. The assessment retraced the supply chain chain from the local farmer through the small traders up to the companies that process hibiscus locally for sale on larger markets and for export.

Additionally, the study examined the socio-economic, medicinal and cultural background of work as far as this is necessary to understand the Roselle-hibiscus business.

About Roselle-Hibiscus

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of Hibiscus probably native to West Africa, used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion, in which it may be known as carcade (Roselle Encyclopædia Britannica). It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, arranged alternately on the stems. The flowers are 8–10 cm (3–4 in) in diameter, white to pale yellow with a dark red spot at the base of each petal, and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) wide, enlarging to 3–3.5 cm (1.2–1.4 in), fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures. They take about six months to mature. The plant grows in many tropical and sub-tropical countries and is one of highest volume specialty botanical products in international commerce.

Roselle is an annual herbaceous shrub of the Malvaceae family with more than 300 species. Most varieties are used in a diverse number of ways: from herbal tea to juices, jellies, jams, ice cream, flavors, and the fabrication of paper.

The main producers and exporters of dried hibiscus products are Sudan, Thailand, China, Mexico, and Nigeria. Other smaller producing nations are Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali, and Jamaica. In Uganda, though Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Roselle, grows in the wild, it is domesticated in some parts of Northern and Central Uganda as a traditional vegetable. Many farmers are growing it on medium to large scale but still its economic potential as a poverty reduction enterprise is underemphasized especially among smallholder farmers.

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