Matooke traders in Fort Portal have protested a Shs 500 tax that is levied off each bunch of matooke, saying it eats into their profits.
The Chairperson, Kitumba matooke market, Amos Gava says the situation has been exacerbated by recent low prices and the COVID-19 pandemic which have affected trade.
“In March, matooke prices went as low as Shs 500, but began to rise again in August to around Shs 4,000 now which is still low, and yet the Shs 500 tax has never been reduced,” he said.
Gava called upon the Fort Portal city council to look into the matter and save them from suffering even bigger losses.
”The tender board that determines the amount of tax to be paid should assist the matooke traders who are living a miserable life because of high taxes imposed on them.”
Paul Isingoma, one of the vendors at Kitumba matooke market, says he pays more in taxes each year than he is able to save during the same period.
“In a year, I spend Shs 3m on taxes and save only Shs 400,000 which is too little to support me and my family. The situation is much worse when matooke prices have dropped,” he said.
He says while they purchase matooke from farmers at relatively high prices, buyers from Kampala offer them little money for it, resulting in losses when they deduct taxes.
Isaiah Kiviri one of the vendors proposed that the tax be reduced to Shs 300.
“We know we must pay taxes for the maintenance of the market like cleaning and garbage collection. However, the tax is very high for us since we don’t earn much,” he said.
The Town Clerk of Fort Portal City Council, Innocent Ahimbisibwe noted the traders’ concerns but said the council cannot be of much help at the moment.
“They have to bear with us because the taxes were fixed when the tender was awarded and cannot be changed now,” he said.
Ahimbisibwe further observed that Fort Portal’s recently awarded city status will come at some cost to residents.
“Since we are now a city, we might make some changes that may either favour them or not, so they will bear with us since the standard of living is likely to increase,” he said.