By Godfrey Ojore
Being one of the citrus farmers in Teso who had hopes of harvesting a lot of money through the sale of her fruits, Alupo has revealed that low prices have left her disappointed despite having a fruit factory.
Five years after the establishment of the Soroti fruit factory, Alupo explained that she is among the many farmers in Teso and neighbouring areas asking questions about why the factory had failed to absorb the fruits.
Alupo, who was on a fact-finding mission to establish the cause for the factory’s failure to buy fruits that people have planted nearly in every home in Teso, interfaced with the factory management on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m not a happy farmer because I was disappointed by the prices of fruits, both oranges and mangoes, and I belong to the group of those farmers who are still asking questions about when the factory will absorb fruits from farmers,” Alupo said.
She explained that it was disappointing to farmers who have kept on selling off their fruits in long sacks at a cost of shs30,000 yet the factory was established by the government with the purpose of alleviating poverty from the farmers.
“The country was zoned into different enterprises that included dairy, poultry, piggery, fruit farming, fish farming, coffee and food. For us in Teso, were zoned into fruit farming,” Alupo said.
The chief executive officer of the factory, Julius Ekomu, said that the factory has not been able to satisfy the farmers due to the limited capacity of the factory and lack of working capital to enable them to purchase oranges.
The factory can only process six metric tonnes of oranges every six hours yet Teso is estimated to have eight million trees of oranges.
“If each tree of the eight million citrus trees produces 100kg of oranges, it then translates to 800,000kgs and at the price of sh500 a kilogram, it will require is to have sh360b to buy the fruits from the farmers in Teso the money we do not have,” Ekomu said.
He said that the government had promised to give the factory sh56b three years ago to help them expand the factory, but the money has not been paid.
“We pray that if the government can only advance for us sh23b, we would get capital for purchasing oranges from the farmers,” Ekomu said.
Alupo promised to engage the Ministry of Finance so that the money could be released for supporting the factory.
Last season, Ekomu said the factory secured sh450m that they used for buying one million kilograms of oranges in the Teso sub-region. Considering the number of oranges, the money was a drop in the ocean.
Onapito Ekomoloit who was recently appointed the board chairman observed that when they took over the leadership, they discovered that there was none flow of the products leading to the backflow of farmer oranges not being bought.
“As new board members, we have been trying to address issues on how we should realize the objectives of the factory by opening the bottlenecks of none flow of the finished products out of it.
However, he was optimistic that the factory will soon meet the expectations of farmers as they are working hard to market the juice to the world.