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Corona virus: Banana farmers afraid of further price drop

Banana farmers in Ntungamo district are worried that a recently imposed restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 virus will cause the already low banana prices to plummet even further.

In recent months banana prices in Ntungamo district have sharply declined, yet many farmers are still struggling to sell off their produce. A substantial majority of farmers in Ntungamo district rely on banana growing both for subsistence and to earn a living.

Speaking to theCooperator, farmers attributed the low prices to a glut of banana on the food market, resulting from a combination of bumper harvests last season and the continued closure of the Uganda-Rwanda border, which has closed off a major market for the regional staple.

Both traders and farmers of the crop voiced their disappointment over the poor prices for bananas, with several farmers resorting to using the bananas as feeds for their animals rather than sell at what they consider a pittance.

Farm gate price for a big bunch of banana now stands at Shs. 2000-3000, down from Shs. 12,000-15,000 shillings some months ago, while  market prices have also sharply declined from between Shs. 20,000 -25,000 to as low as Shs. 5,000-6,000 for a bunch.

“Some of us are thinking of abandoning banana farming for other businesses if things continue this way,” said a despondent Sabiti Rubegyemera, a farmer from Rwentobo-Rwahi Town council.

Other farmers expressed their frustration over their inability to personally access prime markets like Kampala, where they believe they could receive a better price for their produce.

“The biggest bunch here goes for Shs. 5000,” says Jonan Tugume, a farmer from Itojo Sub-County, “and yet when a trader takes the same bunch to Kampala, he can get about Shs. 30,000 for it. We are really suffering down here.”

Corona virus fears

As if their plight was not bad enough, farmers are worried that the recently imposed public health and safety measures aimed at limiting the spread of the novel Corona virus could cause a slump in sales and drive banana prices even lower.

Speaking to this publication, Ntungamo District Commercial Officer, Benon Tibemanya said this fear is valid, explaining that that the ongoing restrictions on operation of public markets will make it harder for farmers to sell their produce, thus further worsening the price situation for bananas.

“Our farmers should start to explore value addition measures, such as making wine out of bananas, which would save them from wasting unsold produce and earn them more money,” he advises.

Anthony Byaruhanga, Ntungamo District Secretary for Production, also believes the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus worldwide could negatively impact export of produce as several countries place restrictions on both travel and imports. .



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