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Low Soya Bean Prices Worry Acholi Farmers

GULU – Farmer groups and cooperatives in Acholi Sub region hurt by slumping of soya bean prices have been forced to rethink the future of the crop.

Many farmers have turned to growing the pricey rice and sunflower.

A kilogram of sunflower seeds cost Shs 1,200 in 2020 while soya beans sold for a paltry Shs 500 per kilogram.

Uma Moses, a member and former intern manager of 294 member Paicho Area Cooperative Enterprise in Gulu district, said members are hurt that they spend about Shs 3,000 to Shs 4,000 on buying soya bean seeds during the planting season but only earn less than Shs 1,000 per kilogram.

“Sun flower is now coming up as an alternative and might take over from soya beans,” he said, but warned that dropping soya beans might drive up demand and prices.

Soya beans have over the years turned into a commercial crop in Acholi sub region outpacing maize and beans.

Paicho Area Cooperative Enterprise bulked eight tons of soya beans in its produce store 2020 but according Uma,  members were forced to sell cheaply to middlemen because a seed company, which signed up to buy the crop reneged on their agreement.

“Farmers have individual problems, which need urgent money so they sometimes sell off cheaply because the cooperative does not have the financial capacity to support them,” he said.

Meanwhile, members of Pur Ber Youth Farmers’ group in Acet Town Council, Omoro District, have resorted to growing rice to cut their losses.

Jimmy Okoyo Latigo, the chairperson of Pur ber youth farmers group (with about 30 members), said they used to grow soya beans as their main crop but the slump in prices has forced them to include rice, which currently fetches a better price.

“We expected to supply our 200 tons of soya beans to seed companies we signed contracts with but they let us down. They said they do not have money. We could have gone to court but we decided against it because it would be a waste of time and money,” he said.

Group members, however, hope they will earn better prices for their soya bean in future since the government is building for them a 200 metric tons store through the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP).

Construction of the store and equipping it with a rice hulling machine is estimated to cost about Shs 200 million.

“We have been renting stores at the trading center and sometimes because of pressure, farmers sell their produce at low prices but now that we are getting our own store, we should be able to keep our produce for a longer period of time,” Okoya said.

Omoro currently has 21 produce stores spread across the district.

However, members of Lukole Grain farmers Area Cooperative Enterprises Limited in Agago District, said they are not giving up yet on the cereal, which they consider a cash crop.

A kilogram of soya beans, which dropped to Shs 500 in 2020 is currently going for Shs 2,500 because supply is low.

Charles Odyek, the chairperson of the 1,775 member cooperative said; “We are now growing the crop to supply to buyers who have signed contracts with us to avoid making many losses,” he said, adding that, “We have already got a buyer from Kenya and we are just about to sign an agreement.” 

In 2020, Lukole Grain farmers Area Cooperative Enterprises Limited produced and sold 15 metric tons of soya beans but Odyek said they are targeting to bulk and sell at least 50 metric tons this year in their 100 metric tons capacity store.

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