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Uganda gold exports hit three-year high after refinery hub emerges

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Kampala — Uganda exported a record volume of gold in May, following a four-month slump, Bank of Uganda reported.

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Gold exports, for a long time Uganda's biggest foreign exchange earner, brought the country $126 million in May, the Bank reported. Uganda's total exports, including gold, coffee, fish, flowers, and oil re-exports, were worth $290.93 million in the month, up 28.7% from April's $207.15 million, it said in its Jan-May trade performance bulletin.

Uganda exported a total of 2,470 kg of refined gold in May, up from 1,180 kg in April, and the highest level in three years, according to the report.

A previous peak in Uganda's gold exports occurred in June 2017, when it sold $120 million-worth of production, mainly from small-scale wildcat miners.

Most of Uganda's gold is exported to the Middle East with the United Arab Emirates being the main destination.

The surge in Uganda's gold exports is attributed to gold's safe haven appeal among investors, who during the coronavirus pandemic have considered buying into the yellow metal a safer option than holding currencies.

Shipments of gold had been negligible for Uganda but they started to rise sharply after a major refiner, Africa Gold Refinery, set up shop in 2016 near Entebbe airport.

Three more gold refineries have recently been built in Uganda, stimulating the country's processing capacity and allowing Uganda to slowly emerge as a regional gold trading hub.

The four refineries source their gold from regional countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda's Central Bank reported in March that Uganda shipped $1.25 billion worth of gold in 2019, more than double its 2018 gold export values of $514.8 million.