Bushenyi: Poor roads compromising quality of tea

BUSHENYI, January 9, 2024 – Farmers in Greater Bushenyi say poor roads are contributing to the poor quality of freshly picked green tea leaves needed by the processing factories in the area.

It is a requirement that freshly picked green tea leaves reach the factory in good condition within about six hours of being picked from the gardens, but few farmers in Greater Bushenyi deliver the green leaf within the specified period because of the poor roads.

Farmers who talked to theCooperator say the poor state of roads implies that by the time the green leaf reaches the factories they are dry and are therefore rejected by the factories, which is a loss.

According to Nicholas Mwebesa of Kyeihara Tea Estate located in Nyaruhanga Sheema district, when the green leaf delays on the roads, its quality diminishes.

Mwebesa said, “I am one of the farmers who have suffered on the poor roads while transporting green tea leaves to the collection centre and then to the factory.”

Savio Tumuramye, another tea farmer in Kyamuhunga, Bushenyi district said that poor roads have contributed to the low output of tea by the farmers.

“The poor roads make the cost of transporting our tea leaves very high because when the roads are in a sorry state even vehicles consume a lot of fuel and the driver will charge you more money,” Tumuramye said.

He appealed to responsible authorities to work on the roads so that farmers could deliver their tea leaves to the collection centres and factories.

“Government should construct good roads especially those that are used to carry heavy loads of green tea be giving priority” he said adding that, even the bridges collapsed and need to be worked on to enable the few farmers in tea business get how to transporting their green leaf,” he said.

Richard Nshumbusha, an out-grower whose green tea leaves were rejected by officials at Igara Growers Tea Factory over delayed delivery recalls the loss he suffered on December 22, 2023.

"Before Christmas, I delayed delivering my tea to the factory because of poor roads in our area. Upon reaching the gate, it was rejected because the quality had deteriorated. It was a big loss because I had already paid four people for their labour and I also spent on transport, meaning that I incurred a loss since the factory did not take my tea,” he said.

John Bosco Atuhairwe, the Field Manager of Igara Growers Tea Factory confirmed that having poor roads in Bushenyi and other tea growing districts is a big factor compromising the quality of green tea leaves.

“You know tea after plucking it shouldn’t exceed more than six hours before it goes to the factory, but sometimes during the rainy season, roads become impassable and it goes beyond six hours, meaning that fermentation that should be taking place in the factory begins taking place elsewhere, which compromises the quality,” Atuhairwe said.

John Bosco Atuhairwe, Operations Manager Igara Tea Gowers (Photo by Joshua Nahamya).

He also encouraged farmers to drop their tea to the factory within six hours to avoid counting losses.

“We have put a parameter here at Igara Growers Tea Factory that we stop receiving green tea from out-growers at exactly 3:00pm so that we don't  compromise the quality of the end-product because in most cases farmers pluck poorly and damage the green leaf and any time you cause injury to the green leaf, its fermentation begins and when that process takes place for long hours, the flavour, and colour of the tea is compromised that lead to low prices at Mombasa Tea Auction,” he explained.

Atuhaire urged government to increase the road fund in the local governments to have roads in the tea growing areas in Bushenyi district to be worked on, adding that the tea sector in the district is one of the revenue sources that provides income to the people.

Igara Tea Growers Factory premises in Kyamuhunga Bushenyi (Joshua Nahamya).

The Bushenyi District Engineer, Barnabas Kiiza Mbonimpa said that several roads in Western Uganda have been destroyed by the heavy rains in the area.

Some of the dilapidated roads serving the tea farmers in Bushenyi district include; Bitoma-Kibazi-Kitatera-Kayemberoad, Kibazi-Kyamabare-Kakoni-Kyamuhunga road, Ruhumuro-Bitoma-Kyamamaria-Butare road, Ruhumuro-Kitojo-kakanju-Butare road, Mitooma-Rutokye-Kakombe-Kabingo-Butare road among others.

Mbonimpa said that the works ministry has cautioned districts not to utilise the Shs 1 billion disbursed for road maintenance during the heavy rains, thus appealing to the public to remain patient.

“As a district, we have new equipment to work on the roads, but the challenge is that we don’t have fuel because we were advised by government that we would start working on the roads when the rainy season,” he said.

“We are trying as leaders of Bushenyi district to engage Uganda National Roads Authority [UNRA] Mbarara offices to ensure that all roads in our district are worked on. Not only farmers are suffering, but all road users are crying,” Robert Atuhairwe, the Bushenyi Resident District Commissioner said.

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