MASINDI -Farmers in Masindi district have appealed to government to establish a farmers’ agricultural bank, saying it would help them access loans at cheaper interest rates.
The farmers under the umbrellas of Masindi Sugarcane Out-growers Association [MASGAL] and Masindi District Farmers Association [MADFA] made the call on Saturday while meeting the Leader of Opposition in Parliament [LoP], Mathias Mpuuga and his shadow cabinet at Kolping Hotel in Masindi town.
Mpuuga and his team had come to consult the farmers on the Farming Contract Bill, which is being spearheaded by Kimanya-Kabonera Division MP, Abed Bwanika.
Masindi farmers used this chance of meeting the MPs and explained to them the need for introducing a farmers’ bank.
“As farmers, we are left to the mercy of commercial banks which are exploiting us because we cannot avoid them right as they are the remaining option for big loans. If government gives us an agricultural bank,” our prayers would have been answered,” said Kanaginagi Ateenyi, a prominent maize and sugarcane farmer in Pakanyi Sub-county.
He was concerned that farmers get bank loans at high interest rates but sell their produce at very low prices.
He added: “How can you keep on saying that agriculture is the backbone of Uganda when we don’t have a farmers’ bank where farmers can go for cheaper loans?”
Innocent Bikorwomuhangi, also a farmer in Masindi Central Division, asked the legislators to consider agricultural financing as one of the crucial interventions if they are to boost agriculture in the country, adding that most commercial banks do not want to lend to farmers due to the many risks in the sector.
“Agriculture financing is a very big challenge to farmers and should be incorporated in the bill,” he appealed.
The farmers also decried the high costs of agro-inputs like fertilizers and herbicides, explaining that apparently, they cannot afford them, hence appealing that government subsidises such inputs.
“We are grappling with the high prices of fertilisers and herbicides. We put in a lot of money but get little from this investment. The bill should address these issues. The cost of a bag of fertiliser has increased from Shs 150,000 to Shs 300, 000,” said Robert Atugonza, the chairperson MASGAL.
Olivia Kyokuhaire, also a cane farmer noted with concern the issue of fake agro-inputs on market, calling for stringent measures from government to clean the market of fraudsters.
About Contract Farming Bill
In August, Parliament granted Dr. Abed Bwanika leave to introduce Contract Farming Bill which seeks to regulate contract and block farming in the country.
According to Mpuuga, under contract farming, an agreement exists between a buyer and farmers to supply a specific quantity and quality of agricultural products at agreed pricing conditions as well as a specified date of delivery.
He added that the bill also seeks to create a legal framework to govern the execution of transactions relating to the sale of future agricultural produce at mutually agreed prices and the supply of farm services between a farmer and a third party.
“It also seeks to prescribe the form of farming agreement; to govern the execution of block farming agreements between owners of parcels of land to regulate the sale, payment, delivery, rejection, and pricing of the agricultural products produced according to a farming agreement among others,” he said.
He also added that buyers will equally benefit from the law as they will connect to farmers directly, negotiate the best prices, and do planning for the market. He says the bill also provides for block farming which will solve the problem of land fragmentation.
“Block farming will help farmers benefit from individual experiences of the farmers when they do farming together. Contract and block farming will help to improve the environment under which the farmers will produce, it will help farmers to access markets and it will also help the farmers to benefit from the Parish development model,” Mpuuga said.
He added that currently, they are in consultations such that they get the farmers’ views about the bill.
Mpuuga added that he took note of the farmers’ concerns, adding that some of the issues raised would be considered in the bill.
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