By George Bita
Farmers from Busoga sub-region have come under criticism over hurrying to flood local markets with harvested seeds that are improperly dried.
According to Elvis Tanaziraba, the Iganga Central Market Chairman, most of the fresh maize, beans, peas, soya and groundnut seeds recently supplied to market stores are not well dried.
“The end result is that they quickly grow moulds while in stores causing traders losses. In most instances, dealers incur more costs in treatment which pushes the food prices up,” he claimed.
Henry Mugote, a dealer in groundnuts at Bugiri Central Market in Bugiri district, told New Vision on Monday that the moisture makes the seeds heavier which in the long-run leads to cheating of customers.
“In school we used to be taught about dry weight. This means the water content must be removed before we finally get the real weight of the seeds,” Mugote argued.
Musa Igobola, a farmer from Nawandala village, Iganga district explained that farmers often have the first harvest of the year during the May-June period which is still being characterised by heavy rains.
“So with too much rain the farmer cannot effectively dry the groundnuts or soya bean yet dealers are already at the farm-gate. Some of the seeds actually get wet as we lack waterproof storage facilities,” Igobola said.
Sarah Mutesi, a groundnut farmer at Bulange parish, Namutumba district attributed the status quo to too much rains that have greatly boosted the water quantity in the soils.
“I started uprooting the groundnuts in mid-April but this was done in rainy weather. Up to now I haven’t had ample sunshine to dry the 20 bags of 100kg capacity yet dealers are always here wanting to buy,” Mutesi narrated.
Zephaniah Isiko, a farmer at Kidera landing site, Buyende district noted that quite often, lorries laden with sacks of maize seeds get heavy rains along the way making soaking of some seeds inevitable.
“By the time these vehicles reach dealers’ stores in urban centres, orders are already on table to supply leaving little room for effective drying of the produce. Little wonder that people are complaining of poorly dried seeds,” Isiko said.
Samuel Mpaabe, director of Dawn Prime Academy Schools in Iganga district observed that institutions that purchase maize and bean seeds from farm supplies have to undertake drying sessions at school.
“For us we have huge tarpaulins spread out on the compound. When we purchase the seeds we start re-drying them during the remaining part of the holiday till we are sure that they possess low moisture content,” Mpaabe noted.
He added that if the seeds are just used as they are; they give very poor quality meals that make learners agitated.
Gozan Ogaza, the Iganga district agriculture officer urged farmers to ensure they undertake effective post-harvest handling of crops before sale.
“In fact even coffee farmers have been discouraged from selling poorly dried beans. A team from Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has been here to sensitise farmers on proper drying procedures,” he disclosed.
According to him, the necessary tools are available to help farmers determine the moisture content of seeds before subsequently putting them on market.
“By using a genuine moisture-meter, a farmer as well as a dealer can determine that the water content is below 13% as per set standard ,” he stressed.