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Farmers Stranded With Mangoes, Oranges

AMOLATAR – Lower fruit prices and a lack of a better market have stoked harsh arguments among mango farmers bruised by sizable losses in the northern district of Amolatar.

Across the sub counties of Muntu, Alemere and Namasale, farmers accuse middlemen of buying their fruit at give-away prices and keeping them trapped in a cycle of poverty.

They claim their mangoes are rotting in the farms and they have lost hope of getting better fruit prices from the extortionist middlemen.

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Joshua Okello, a farmer in Alemere with 900 orange trees, said he sold his citrus fruit at Shs 20,000 per bag, which is too little compared to the price of chemicals used to spray the trees.

He said middlemen are taking advantage of the lack of proper marketing strategies to exploit farmers.

“I expected to earn more than Shs 5 million, but I almost settled for nothing, it hurts, it haunts,” the father of three said. He had anticipated to sell a bag at Shs 75, 000.

Faustino Abaca, also a farmer, said they had bought into President Museveni’s pitch of growing oranges and mangoes for sale but they are hugely frustrated by the lack of market.

“We had been growing oranges and mangoes but not for sale. When the president directed that we should start growing for commercial purposes, we embraced it but now we have plenty of harvest but no market,” Abaca said.

The farmers urged the government to establish a fruit factory in the area.

“The fruit factory in Soroti has no capacity to absorb all the fruits produced in the east and northern regions. Worse still, we hear farmers in Soroti are also stranded with their produce despite the presence of the factory,” Robert Odongo, another farmer, said.

He said the government should intervene and rescue stranded farmers.

“We call upon the government to consider establishing a fruit processing plant in this area to address farmers’ concerns. We cannot move out of this poverty under such circumstances,” he added.

Soroti Fruit Factory was launched in April 2019 to process the abundant oranges and mangoes in eastern and northern Uganda. However, in January, the joy of farmers, who had anticipated to reap big from the sale of their produce, dampened.

“We hear the government people saying we are about to achieve middle income status but I think they are telling lies because we are still very poor. Our efforts are not yielding any positive results,” Mary Odongo said.

“People took oranges and mangoes as viable enterprises but it has turned out to be a curse due to a lack of market,” she said.

The farmers want government to put up a fruit processing plant in Lango to soar up mango prices and create jobs for hundreds of young people.

“If we have a fruit processing plant, we will be sure our fruit has ready market and it will also help us fetch better prices. We want the government to engage international buyers who will buy our mangoes for export,” said Lucy Awino.

Interviewed for a comment, Amolatar District Chairman Simon Peter Ongom Sedu, said, “As the district we are aware of the concerns but all is set to have the concerns reach the line ministry in order to handle the matter.” 

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