Finance minister Matia Kasaija told Parliament that Government has agreed to pay nursery bed operators for the coffee and tea seedlings to be distributed to farmers before the rains stop.
Uncertainty has been looming around Parliament as legislators led by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa have been demanding answers from the Government on when the free distribution of coffee and tea seedlings through Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) would be done.
Kasaija said much as the coffee and tea seedlings that were at the risk of outliving their useful stage are worth sh93b, only sh30b was appropriated for them this financial year.
“This will be a one off intervention to evacuate the mature seedlings. Payment for the seedlings will be made over two financial years, which is 2023/24 and 2024/25,” he said.
Government has previously been distributing free coffee and tea seedlings to the farmers through UCDA and NAADS before making payments to the nursery bed operators.
Currently, UCDA still owes coffee nursery bed operators up to about sh19b for the previous season’s supplies.
Kasaija told Parliament that the distribution was delayed because the programme was shifted from UCDA and NAADS to the Parish Development Model (PDM).
However, this did not go well with legislators who have been saying they mobilised constituents several months ago to dig holes as they waited for seedlings from the known government entities, but that nothing has come through.
Last month, nursery bed operators in a petition presented by Sheema District Woman MP Rosemary Nyakikongoro pleaded with Parliament to ask the Government to evacuate the seedlings that were almost getting wasted, and then they would be paid later.
Tayebwa said much as the minister’s commitment that the seedlings will be distributed had been welcomed by legislators, there is need for immediate action by the responsible government entities to make sure that the farmers receive the supplies in time.
Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga asked the finance ministry not to veer off the legal procedures of appropriation by diverting the money meant for seedlings distribution to PDM.
He said the finance minister might have wanted to ambush Parliament to state that the coffee and tea seedlings distribution for this year was already set to be done under PDM, as opposed to what was appropriated.
Mpuuga noted that Parliament appropriated sh12b for tea seedlings and sh30b for the coffee ones.
“Minister of finance, if you want to change appropriation, please do it formally. But for now, stick to the budget and we shall not demand more from you” Mpuuga said.
Kasaija then assured Parliament that the money in the budget will “be released very soon” to the implementing agencies as the distribution of seedlings is ongoing across the country.
Kassanda North MP Patrick Nsamba said the Government should not crowd the Parish Development Model (PDM)with every programme, but that it should instead allow Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) to continue dealing with coffee and tea farmers.
Lawmakers were backed by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, who said he had rallied the farmers in his Ruhinda North constituency to dig holes because they had been alerted through Operation Wealth Creation that the seedlings would be distributed as soon as the rains started.
Tayebwa noted that if the Government insists on distributing seedlings through the PDM SACCOS, then there is not going to be any planting this year, since the SACCOS are not yet in place.
Kimanya-Kabonera legislator Abed Bwanika challenged the Government not to crowd PDM with sensitive programmes like coffee development because the SACCOS only comprise 39% of all the households in every Kasaija parish.