Fruit farmers in Nwoya district have asked government to speed up the establishment of a fruit processing factory pledged by President Yoweri Museveni, to enable them add value to their fruits and boost their incomes.
The government, through the National Agricultural Advisory Services, NAADS earmarked Shs 19bn this financial year to establish a fruit factory in Nwoya district, with the aim of adding value to the abundant fruits in the district.
The project is being set up in partnership with Delight Uganda Limited- also the manufacturers of Cheers Juice-, Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society and the district local government.
An estimated 6000 acres of fruit trees in Nwoya district are owned by Delight Uganda Limited, Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society Limited and individual farmers.
However, Dr. Julian Adyeri Omalla, the founder and CEO of Delight Uganda Limited says that farmers continue to earn a pittance from their fruits, because the establishment of the factory has dragged on for long.
Adyeri says that President Museveni directed three financial years ago that the factory be set up, and wonders why it has taken so long for the work to start.
“The issue of the fruit factory has been mentioned in the budget for three financial years but they are yet to buy the equipment. The factory still delaying, yet our mangoes are ready and rotting. We are suffering. We need the factory as soon as tomorrow,” Dr. Adyeri said.
She also expressed concern that the budget allocated to building the factory shrinks with each passing financial year.
”In FY 2018/2019, Shs 28 bn was earmarked for the factory; in 2019/2020, it was reduced to Shs 23 bn. When it was unused and returned to the treasury from NAADS, they reduced it to Shs19 bn this financial year,” Adyeri said.
When the President pledged the fruit processing factory, he specified that the equipment for it would be supplied by Alvan Blanc, a British manufacturing and project engineering company that specializes in post-harvest crop processing.
However, Dr. Adyeri advises that the bid for the supply of the factory equipment should be made open to the public, to fasten the procurement process.
“The president directed that Alvan Blanc should supply the equipment but they have delayed; so I think the bid should be made open to other suppliers,” she said.
However, Khadija Nakakande, the Communications officer of NAADS, told theCooperator that she is not aware of any deductions on the money allocated for the fruit factory.
“When you do a feasibility study you know the cost of a certain establishment, so you can’t say the cost has been reduced… The feasibility study we did for the factory informed us that the factory would cost 19 billion shillings and that is it. I don’t know where they are getting the other figures from,” Khadija said.
On whether other suppliers can bid for the supplier of the equipment, Nakakande says unless the President says so, NAADS cannot do much.
“The President directed that he wants Alvan Blanc to supply the equipment, not NAADS. If he tells us that we can change the contractor we have no problem with it, but you know a presidential directive is a directive,” she said.
She adds that they were already in the process of procuring the equipment, but have been set back by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“We are almost done with the procurement procedures, except that the team that was supposed to go and do due diligence in London, where the company and the equipment are, cannot travel there because everything is still on standstill. We are working out to see whether we can appoint someone here to do the work,” Nakakande said.
Nakakande says the fruit factory, whose installation is expected to start this financial year, will be able to process 12 metric tonnes of fruits per hour.
Expected benefits of factory
Adyeri, who owns 800 acres of mango, guava and orange fruit trees in Nwoya district, says this is the third year she is selling her mangoes, but she is making losses because not all the fruits can be bought.
“If we had a fruit factory, I would make 100 percent profit from mango juice, pulp and concentrate. I would also dry them to make other products, but now we are only selling the fruits,” Dr Adyeri said.
Vincent Langole, Advisor to the board of Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society says setting up a fruit factory would provide the cooperative with ready market, adding the members of the cooperative are at the moment selling their fruits individually, due to limited market.
“Delight Uganda Limited doesn’t even buy from us because they have a small factory in Kawempe which cannot consume all the fruits they are producing, so they cannot buy from the cooperative,” Langole said.
Langole says it is unclear how many tonnes of fruits are produced by the farmers in Nwoya annually, because of lack of a common market for selling the fruits collectively, but he alone produces between 80-90 tonnes of fruits annually.
Simon Peter Oryem, Vice Chairperson, Nwoya Fruit Growers’ Cooperative Society, says the cooperative members had hoped that that upon the factory’s establishment, they would get enough money to embark on other income generating activities such as poultry, piggery, as well as planting more trees to protect the environment and, in turn, support their other activities.
Kilama Alfred Nwoya district Agricultural officer says the fruit factory will help the local farmers increase their income, “because value addition is key if one is to benefit from any agricultural enterprise.”
“Fruits are perishable crops and the ordinary farmers always sell them cheaply in the open market. Once the factory is in place, the value chain will be complete; there will be ready market, transport and employment,” he reasoned.
Kilama further believes that construction of the fruit factory will motivate farmers to take better care of their fruit trees.
“Now they neglect their orchards since they know that even when the fruits are ready, there is very little market for them,” he said.