Finance minister Matia Kasaija today (September 28, 2022) had it rough with MPs after he failed to explain why the Government has delayed to supply coffee and tea seedlings to farmers.
In a statement to the House, Kasaija said originally, the responsibility of supplying seedlings to the farmers was with National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). However, that responsibility was taken away and placed under the Parish Development Model (PDM).
“Unfortunately, the policy change did not cater for the already mature coffee seedlings. However, the Government has decided that the farmers will be given the seedlings through the leadership of the PDM SACCOS,” he said.
Kasaija said according to the budget, the mature seedlings that are ready for planting from the nursery are worth sh93b.
Kasaija’s statement, however, angered the MPs, who wondered why he had placed the responsibility of identifying the farmers under the SACCOs which they said have not yet even been formed.
“So is this an indirect way of dodging us? The SACCOS you are talking have not yet been formed and even the parish model money has not yet been released,” Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa said.
MP Patrick Nsamba argued that farmers who are ready have already been identified and are known by UCDA.
“The farmers are known. The process of identifying them has already been done. Why are you referring the matter to SACCOS that do not exist?” he argued.
Last month, coffee nursery operators under their umbrella organisation Devoted Coffee Farmers Initiative Uganda petitioned Parliament seeking guidance on the government’s commitment to supply farmers with coffee seedlings on credit.
Represented by MP Rose Nyakikongoro, the operators said the seedlings were verified by UCDA in 2022 and are due for planting.
However, due to failure by the ministry of finance commit on the payment, the seedlings have not yet been supplied out and are over-growing in the nursery beds.
“The ministry of finance should allow coffee nursery farmers to supply seedlings this season to the ready farmers and payments be made later when funds become available so that the seedlings do not go to waste in the nursery beds,” they said.
They further argued that coffee nursery operators under Coffee Development Authority had not been warned to scale down production of seedlings, yet the coffee roadmap of 20 million bags targets by 2025 had led to increased demand and production of coffee seedlings for farmers to plant.
They also argued that the coffee seedlings estimated to cost sh71b have over-grown and are going to go to waste if no intervention is made by the Government.
“Farmers who were prepared to plant coffee in March/April 2022 were frustrated but have continued to demand for the seedlings,” they said.
Kasaija later said, there is money in the budget worth sh30b which Parliament appropriated that he will release to UCDA and NAADS to purchase the seedlings. The balance, he said, will have to be purchased through SACCOS.