MASINDI – A raging pay dispute in Pakanyi Sub County Masindi District has pitted over 400 maize farmers against FICA Seeds– a seeds producing and marketing company, accused of failing to pay them Shs 1.2 billion in maize supplies.
According to Job Kaheeru, the chairperson of the aggrieved farmers, they supplied over a million tons of maize Open Pollinated Varieties (OPV) and hybrid seeds in the last two seasons but no single payment has been advanced to them.
“We are demanding money for the maize we supplied in the second season of 2019 and two seasons of 2020. We used money from micro finance institutions expecting to pay back in time but now we are grappling with the loans. Some farmers are losing their investments and FICA Seeds is not bothered at all,” Kaheeru said on June 10 during a meeting at Kolping Hotel convened to chat a way forward.
He said they have worked with FICA Seeds for the last 15 years.
“We were contracted as maize farmers under our farmer groups to do production and multiplication of maize seeds. Farmers do production on their own without help inform of agro-in-puts or financial support. What FICA Seeds does is supervision of the agro-activities by their extension workers. Making us to go through this experience affects us a lot,” Kaheeru said.
He said they have written letters to management and used all available means to reach a settlement to no avail.
“Whenever we engage them, they tell us we are working on your payment. We have also tried to engage the local leadership to intervene in the matter but that has not worked. We are now calling upon the central government to intervene such that we can get justice,” he said.
Kaheeru said that if all amicable ways fail to yield fruit, they are going to court.
“Most of us mortgaged properties to get loans to do the production. Treating us in this manner may tempt us to take a radical decision,” Kaheeru said.
Julius Tibenda, a prominent maize farmer in Pakanyi Sub County, said he is owed Shs 20 million. He said since he started supplying seeds to FICA Seeds in 2003, he had never gone through this rough patch.
“I have sold all I had to pay my loans and yet I am demanding my good money from the company,” a furious Tibenda lamented.
Doreen Birungi, a maize farmer from Kibamba village, Pakanyi Sub County, told theCooperator that she is owed Shs 57 million.
“I am calling upon the government to help us get our money since we worked for it,” Birungi said.
John Omiki from Kibamba village said he is demanding Shs 45 million.
“I have no way to survive and to provide for my family. I am even failing to buy the basic needs. I am indeed disappointed by this company,” he added.
Interviewed for a comment, Narcis Tumushabe Rwangoga, the Chief Executive Officer of FICA Seeds, said, “What I know is farmers who supplied seeds to us between August and September last year and the farmers who supplied between January and May this year are the ones claiming money. We know those farmers and they’re our suppliers because we have been working with them since 2002. We are working on their payment and they’re going to be paid.”
“Even right now we are making transfers for the payment of 80% of the farmers. I am optimistic that we are going to clear those farmers within a short time,” he added.
Challenges caused the delay
Tumushabe attributed the delay in payment to Covid-19.
“The delay was not intentional but Covid-19 is part of the bigger cause. For instance; In March and April last year, we had more than 200 metric tons of hybrid maize seeds, which couldn’t move anywhere,” he added.
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