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Cassava Farmers Hard Hit By Lack Of Market, Low Prices

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Faustine Odeke

Cassava farmers in Teso, Bukedi and Lango sub-regions are counting losses due to the lack of market for their produce and low prices.

The farmers say the losses have been compounded by the failure of the multi-billion shilling value addition plant in Pallisa district to process their cassava.

The $2.5m (about sh9.2b) cassava processing plant was established in 2021 by Lukonge Cotton Company Limited in Pallisa district to produce starch for food grade and industrial use.

However, officials said the plant has run out of business due to high taxes. The importation of duty-free starch by their competitors from Egypt, Indonesia and India is the other factor that has rendered the plant idle.

Low prices of raw cassava are the other challenge farmers have cited.

Farmers told New Vision that the company that used to buy fresh cassava at sh300,000 per tonne has reduced the price to sh100,000 due to higher taxes and higher electricity tariffs, besides the cost of operation.

To avert the emerging challenge, a crisis meeting between the company managers, farmers and local leaders was held at the company premises last Wednesday.

During the meeting, stakeholders agreed to establish a committee to demand government intervention and also petition the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, for a possible bailout.

“We were lured to venture into massive cassava production because of good prices when the factory started. Now our cassava is rotting due to lack of market and yet I need to clear loans and pay school fees for my children,’’ Budesta Adeke, a farmer with 60 acres of cassava in Kumi district, said.

The LC3 chairperson of Madera sub-county in Bukedea district, Joseph Amailem, said when the Government cautioned people against growing rice in wetlands, the majority of them ventured into extensive cassava growing.

 Amailem added that with cassava as a major cash crop in the area, the processing plant came in handy However, with the challenge of fluctuating prices, Gabriel Oronis from Okoboi village in Kidongole sub[1]county, Bukedea district, said most farmers that ventured into extensive cassava farming are counting losses.

Oroni added that some farmers who injected sh25m into cassava farming are currently paid sh1m or less The assistant resident district commissioner of Pallisa, Louis Patrick Okia, pledged to raise the matter with government stakeholders.

Okia also summoned an urgent meeting with various stakeholders and leaders, including MPs from Teso, Lango and Bukedi, to forge a way forward Uganda produces over fi ve million tonnes of cassava annually.

It is also the sixth largest cassava-producing country in Africa.

Government support needed

To bailout some of these farmers, Elly Wabwire, the production and marketing manager of the cassava processing plant, said the Government needs to support the company to explore the global market for starch.

He added that the company is currently stuck with 400 metric tonnes of unsold starch produced in the last four months due to lack of market.

Wabwire said the demand for starch in the country is at 1,500 metric tonnes.

Starch from cassava is a major component for drug processing and pharmaceutical use.

“The company can easily reach the higher targets if supported by the Government to expand its plant and machinery equipment and impose a tax duty of 25% on imported starch,’’ said Wabwire.

LEADP PHOTO CAPTION: Some of the packaged cassava starch for food grade and industrial use.

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