Cooperatives & Communities

Nebbi farmers wary of middlemen in coffee subsector

NEBBI– Although growing coffee is one of the enterprises that the government has selected under Parish Development Model [PDM] to fight poverty in rural households, farmers in Nebbi district have urged government to wipe the middlemen out o the subsector.

The coffee farmers under their cooperative society operating in Athele village, Pajur parish in Erussi Subcounty are optimistic that if government controls the monopoly of middlemen in the coffee business, farmers will benefit because they will sell directly to buyers without being cheated.

They said the PDM will not benefit the farmers if coffee prices are determined by the middlemen who exploit the local farmers by buying their coffee at low prices in order to get high profit margins.

Coffee in Nebbi district is grown in the sub-counties of Erussi, Ndhew, Atego,Ndhew, and some parts of Nebbi Sub-county where farmers have chosen  Arabica coffee as an enterprise to uplift their livelihoods under PDM.

Kizito Kakwo, the chairman of the coffee society [Merber pi Anyim], says coffee has a ready market but its marketability is being frustrated by the cartels and middlemen that determine low prices, leaving farmers with low incomes.

Kakwo said coffee business has everlasting benefits to farmers if well managed right from the plantations to the processing facilities.

Through the coffee business, Kakwo has managed to provide basic necessities to his family members such as paying school fees for his children and constructing a permanent house that the group members use as a storage facility for their coffee beans.

He however said members don’t have enough capacity to do coffee business.

“Coffee farmers lack capacity building and mindset change. They have a habit of selling the green coffee beans to middlemen who exploit them,” Kakwo said.

The coffee subsector in Nebbi faces a number of challenges such as pests and diseases, theft of coffee beans, poor storage, and a poor road network system that hinders the transportation of the produce.

According to farmers, the price of the ordinary grade was at  Shs 8000 per kilogramme but premium coffee beans with a moisture content of 11-12 were at Shs 10,000 per kilogramme, meaning they expect a higher price this season.

However, Ms. Lucian Olyera, a widow venturing into the coffee business in Athele village, Pajur Parish in Erussi Subcounty says middlemen have exploited farmers too much.

Olyera who lost her husband in 2010 and now looks after six children, wants government to enact laws, which protect the farmers from being exploited by intermediaries.

She added that farmers have now formed a coffee cooperative society with the aim to fight off middlemen, among other purposes.

Commenting about PDM, she said Shs 100 million earmarked annually for the parish is too little.

“The Shs 100mln for the whole parish would be so meager to support the farming groups since the price of general commodities has gone high and if finance basket could allow, at least government should increase the funds to Shs 200 mln,” Olyera said.

But PDM Focal Point Person  Nebbi district Walter Abineno assured farmers that, for anyone to access the PDM money must be in groups because it is a revolving fund to be managed by the PDM SACCOs.

“The PDM  policy is very clear that whoever is not in the groups or has not registered at the village doesn’t qualify for the money, so I urge people to register in groups to access the money,” Abineno said.

He added that for farmers to reap big from coffee enterprises there must be a sustainable land management system that must be employed and coffee farmers must practice land conservation systems to avoid soil erosion.

“We are working closely with field extension workers at the sub-county level to ensure that there is value addition to the identified enterprises by the PDM beneficiaries,” Abineno said.

The Nebbi district production officer Leverius Nyakuni said Erussi Subcounty has the best sandy loam soils recommended for coffee growing, adding that if the coffee plantations are well managed, they will produce higher yields.

“We have over 63 coffee farmers’ groups registered in the sub-county and we call on farmers for timely monitoring of coffee plantations to avoid being destroyed by pests and diseases,” Nyakuni said.

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