Produce buyers in Acholi sub region have been advised to join cooperatives if they are to remain in business.
The advice was given by Nwoya District Commercial Officer Kenneth Kitara, after receiving several complaints from produce buyers in the region that players from outside the region are frustrating their business.
The produce buyers, under their umbrella Gulu City Market Vendors Association (GCMVA), are accusing produce buyers from other regions of buying directly from the farmers thereby frustrating them in the business.
They say that the produce buyers in the region are now being thrown out of the business, putting their livelihood under threat.
Vicky Mutai, the General Secretary, Gulu City Vendors Association, said produce buyers from outside the region flood the villages and buy crops while they are still still in the farmlands.
“By the time we the produce buyers in the region get to the ground, you can hardly find anything to buy,’’ she said.
Mutai argues that produce buyers outside the region are supposed to get produce from them, and not directly from the farmers.
“Heavy trucks enter Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts, and they are always loaded with items like groundnut, rice, cassava, soybean and beans right from the garden, something that is frustrating our business. If the trend is not checked, we who are still in the business might be forced out,’’ she said.
In his response to the local produce buyers’ complaints, Kitara advised them to embrace cooperatives as one way to increase their influence compared to their counterparts from outside the district.
“Please have cooperatives in place so that you have a say in what is being produced in the region, rather than lamenting about how you are being kicked out of the business,” he advised.
He also cited limited capital as a major challenge facing local produce buyers.
“As much as we blame outside produce buyers of depriving their colleagues in the region, the fact is that many of the produce buyers here have limited capital to enable them to keep in the business all the time.’’
Joseph Kalende Okumu, a farmer from Koch Goma Sub County, Nwoya district, explained that desperate domestic circumstances sometimes force farmers to sell to produce buyers from outside:
“At times we are in need of money urgently, and that is why we are tempted to sell to whoever is available at that time,’’ he said
Meanwhile, Mutai also alleges that on many occasions the produce buyers from outside the region cheat the farmers and tracing for their whereabouts is a challenge.
For instance, a produce buyer from outside Acholi sub-region, who in 2017 allegedly bought a truck of simsim from a farmer using counterfeit money, has never been apprehended.