Coffee farmers have petitioned Parliament, arguing that their seedlings, worth sh71b, have overgrown in nursery beds and could be wasted if immediate government intervention is not made.
Led by their chairperson, Matia Tumwebaze, the about 15 petitioners who represented all coffee seedling farmers countrywide, stormed the precincts of Parliament on Tuesday, September 6, 2022, carrying samples of their overgrown seedlings.
Tumwebaze noted that each of the seven coffee regions in the country was represented on the team that moved to Parliament, under their umbrella body — the Devoted Coffee Farmers Initiative Uganda.
The regions are mid-western, Rwenzori, northern, western, eastern, southern and central.
However, security personnel at Parliament denied the farmers access to the chambers, on grounds that they did not have an appointment and, therefore, declared their protest illegal. Security subsequently ordered them to vacate the vicinity.
The action prompted the petitioners to pitch camp at the Uganda National Cultural Centre Kampala (National Theatre) adjacent to Parliament, where they held a press briefing. The farmers said they want the finance ministry to give guidance on the matter of the overgrown coffee seedlings that were verified by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), for farmers to plant during the 2022 coffee year.
The petitioners say more than 3,000 nursery bed operators were stuck with coffee seedlings worth sh71b. They said this translates into about 70 million coffee seedlings lost per season by farmers, in all the seven regions.
The petitioners claimed they were certified by UCDA to supply farmers with coffee seedlings for five years in the two seasons, running from March to May and August to November, annually.
Tumwebaze wondered why UCDA and the agriculture ministry have been non-reactive on the matter, yet the operators were certified by the Government. He said it was difficult for the suppliers to convince farmers to buy their coffee seedlings, since they (farmers) are accustomed to receiving them at no cost from government.
“We have borrowed money from commercial banks to prepare the nursery gardens, and the banks are taking our properties because we mortgaged them to acquire the running capital,” Tumwebaze said.
Kisoliz Mbusa, who caters for Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts, said: “I cultivated over 500,000 seedlings and I supply them to Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts, but I am choking on debts. I have been waiting for government to pay for my seedlings, but nothing is in the offi ng.” Mbusa said he and the other farmers under his coordination, could lose up to 1.5 million seedlings.
Miria Ntungwa from Kasese said she is stuck with 28 million overgrown coffee seedlings worth sh900m. Her fellow farmer from Kasese, Gladys Biira, requested President Yoweri Museveni to intervene in the matter.
UCDA, Speaker comment
When New Vision contacted the Uganda Coffee Development Authority managing director, Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye, he said there were 1,646 certified coffee nursery operators in the country, and not 3,000. Iyamulemye said the finance ministry did not allocate the sh71b required to buy the seedlings in this financial year (2022/2023).
“I consider the petitioners to be very serious and I have communicated to finance minister Matia Kasaija, to allocate the said funds,” he added.
On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, said she had heard of the grievances of the coffee farmers.
“Be patient, Parliament will handle the issue,” Among told the coffee farmers.