Tea farmers in Tooro stuck with produce

Tea farmers in Tooro stuck with produce
Tea Plantation

More than 2,000 tea farmers in Kabarole and Kyenjojo districts are stuck with their produce due to due to a drop in demand for the produce.

The farmers have been selling their produce to two major tea factories in the Tooro region, Mpanga in Kabarole and Mabale in Kyenjojo.

However, last year the two factories announced they had reduced on the quantity of green leaf supplied to them by farmers due to indebtedness to a tune of 19.4 billion shillings.

The indebtedness of the two factories has seen several tea farms going to waste. The factories receive 80 percent of the green leaf from the out-growers and 20 percent is from plantations owned by the tea factory.

Ronald Ategeka, the chairperson of Kabarole tea farmers, says farmers are frustrated because they purchased inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers to improve the quality of their produce, but have nowhere to sell their produce. He explains that some farmers have no option, but leave their produce to rot.

Ategeka wants the government to bail out the two factories to enable them increase production.

Rosemary Asiimwe, a farmer in Kyenjojo district owns a 40-acre tea farm but has failed to sell all her produce to Mabale tea factory. Asiimwe explains that she is forced to sell her produce to Rusekere and Kijura tea factories in Kabarole district, which requires more than 300,000 shillings for transport costs.

Patrick Siisa, the Board Chairperson Mabale tea factory, says that due to the challenges facing the factory, they limited the quantity of green leaf because the farmers were supplying much more than the factory could process. Siisa explains they are forced to accept only 10,000 kilogrammes of green leaf a day, down from 55,000 kilogrammes.

He explains that they are limiting on the quantity of tea from farmers because the factory has accumulated debts of up to 13 billion Shillings.

Mpanga Growers Tea Factory was incorporated in 1995 and is one of the tea factories formerly under Uganda Tea Growers Corporation (UTGC), established by an Act of Parliament. Mabale is owned by 3,000 shareholders while Mpanga is owned by 1,700 shareholders.

Last month, during a meeting with members of the Tooro Elders Forum in Fort Portal, the indebtedness of the two factories was brought to the attention of President Yoweri Museveni who promised to avail funds in the coming financial year.