Pineapple farmers in Masaka district have called on the government to honor its commitment to construct a processing factory in their locality to enable them to switch from selling raw fruits to processed juice.
The call by mainly pineapple farmers from the sub-counties of Buwunga, Kyannamukaaka, Kyesiiga, and Kabonera in Masaka district follows a dramatic fall in the prices of raw fruits, which the farmers say has greatly affected their incomes and livelihoods.
Moses Ssebugwawo, the chairperson of Kyannamukaaka Sub County Pineapple Growers group told theCooperator that the price of a pineapple has fallen to as low as shs.300 in recent months, from an average cost of shs.1,000.
In spite of the low prices, however, Ssebugwawo says that demand for the pineapples has remained low thanks to bumper harvests.
Mary Nalutaaya, one of the pineapple farmers from Buyaga Parish told theCooperator that many farmers in the area had been given pineapple suckers through the Operation Wealth Creation and Livelihoods Improvement Schemes over the last three years to boost production, which has seen production outstrip demand, leading to the dramatic fall in prices.
She says she and her colleagues have now resorted to looking for market in neighboring townships after their former Kenyan and South Sudan exporters shunned them for nearer suppliers in Luwero district.
“Those traders (from Kenya and South Sudan) were taking suckers from our firms and now, they have started their own farms from which they produce pineapples. So they will have no reason to return to Uganda,” she observed.
As a remedy, Ssebugwawo says their group is now looking to value-addition to start selling processed juice, for which a processing plant would be handy.
He told theCooperator that while on a tour of NAADs projects in the district in 2007, President Museveni, impressed by the promising fruit farming in the area promised to offer them a fruit processing plant, which they have been waiting for, in vain.
“We had also gone into slumber because we had exporters, but now that they are no more we are vigorously renewing demand for it,” Nalutaaya says.
She said that in addition to issuing reminders to the relevant authorities about the plant, they intend to make it a key public infrastructure issue in the upcoming campaigns ahead of the 2021 general elections.
Maria Nakakande, the Coordinator of the Wealth Creation and Production program in the area said she was aware of the farmers’ need, and that a solution was underway.
“I’m personally following up on the pledge because it still stands, and together with other colleagues we are in touch with the responsible departments and we are optimistic that a solution will be coming soon,” she told theCooperator on phone.
If delivered, the processing plant will not be the first of its kind in the Masaka sub-region. In the late 80s to early 90s, Masaka Farmers’ Cooperative Union operated a fruit processing plant in the area, from which a local brand of Creps Soda was being manufactured.
The defunct factory, located in Kijjabwemi trading center on the outskirts of Masaka town, however, did not survive the onslaught of privatization, and like many other big cooperatives’ properties, is now a shell of its former self, with only a dilapidated building left where it previously stood.
Now, Ssebugwawo says that local farmers have overtime upped their capacity and that they can produce at least 100 Fuso lorries of pineapples per month, enough to maintain a constant supply to a processing plant in the area.