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Coffee farmers run to Parliament over seedlings fiasco

Sheema district woman Member of Parliament, Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro, presenting the petition

KAMPALA — Coffee farmers want Parliament to direct the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to allow coffee nursery farmers to supply seedlings to farmers and payments be made later.

This was contained in a petition presented to Parliament by Sheema district woman Member of Parliament Hon. Rosemary Nyakikongoro and seconded by Hon. David Muhumuza (NRM, Mwenge County South) during the plenary sitting on Wednesday, 24 August 2022.

“Although Parliament in its sitting of 12 May 2022 and 20 May 2022 directed that coffee seedlings be given to farmers and permission be given to nursery operators to supply all overgrown seedlings in the nursery beds as the March-May 2022 planting season was running out, no guidance was given to that effect,” read the petition in part.

The farmers now want the finance ministry to give guidance on the matter of overgrown seedlings that were verified by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) for farmers to plant during 2022 coffee year.

“As the August/September 2022 planting season is setting, farmers continue to overwhelmingly demand for the coffee seedlings to plant,” stated the petition.

The petition stated that following the launch of the Parish Development Model (PDM), and from March to May, coffee farmers were stopped from supplying coffee seedlings to UCDA, yet they continued receiving overwhelming demand from farmers who had prepared their land for planting.

“The coffee seedlings estimated to cost Shs71 billion have overgrown and are going to waste if no intervention is made by government,” the petition read in part.

Hon. Nyakikongoro, said that whilst the finance minister committed that in the season of March/May farmers would be allowed to supply the seedlings, no action has been taken yet.

“Government is fond of exciting farmers, we mobilise them, and then all of a sudden they change. The farmers get confused, yet the target is to produce more coffee for export. Now if we do not support our farmers to grow more coffee, what is going to happen to that target?” Nyakikongoro said.

She warned that if UCDA does not allow nursery farmers to supply seedlings to farmers, the country risks having sub-standard coffee and will fail to produce for exportation.

Hon. Muhumuza wondered why UCDA is not allowing nursery farmers to supply seedlings and yet Parliament appropriated funds for the procurement of seedlings.

“That budget for coffee was passed and MPs mobilised. I have been in the constituency and told people there are seedlings. Every time I get a call, farmers want seedlings,” he said.

He added that the PDM cannot benefit coffee farmers since it is targeting a small percentage of farmers, and yet at the same time it has not yet kicked off.

Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) said that failure to support coffee farming will jeopardise the country’s economic growth.

The Kinkizi County West MP, Hon. James Kaberuka faulted government for abandoning major cash crops like tea and coffee, without giving alternatives.

“Look at Buhweju, Kanungu and Zombo where we are promoting tea but along the way, before factories take off, you withdraw. This is a bad practice and we want the Minister of Finance to come and tell us why,” said Kaberuka.

Hon. Susan Amero was unimpressed with the progress of fruit factory in Soroti district

Amuria district woman MP, Hon. Susan Amero, also highlighted the challenge of the fruit factory in Teso, which she says has never taken off, leaving farmers with wasted fruits.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Animal Industry) Hon. Bright Rwamirama, said that the matter will be considered in Cabinet on Monday, 29 August 2022.

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa referred the petition to the ministers of agriculture and that of finance, and directed them to present a report on action taken on Wednesday, 31 August 2022.

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