NWOYA – A bumper harvest should be a gift to farmers hoping to profit off the huge sales but the plummeting retail prices in the last two seasons have drowned out the good news for Nwoya rice farmers.
There are at least 38 big rice farms in Nwoya District sitting on about 8,000 acres.
The big farms include; FOL Farm, which sits on 3,000 acres in Lamoki Village, Anaka Sub County. The farm is owned by a group of investors from Dubai, growing Nerica-4 rice for export.
While commissioning FOL Farm in 2017, President Yoweri Museveni urged Nwoya rice farmers to grow rice on a commercial scale to shrink the rice deficit of 200,000 tons in the country.
But the falling prices of rice are forcing a rethink among many farmers; they are bowing out of the business.
The most affected farmers include the 92 members of Nwoya Cassava and Rice Growers’ Cooperative Society Limited, located in Bwobonam parish in Alero Sub County, Nwoya District.
Michael Odong, the vice-chairperson of the cooperative, said they sold 10 tons of last season’s rice in May. He said they hang on to their rice for months hoping the price would rise but were disappointed.
Last year they sold unhulled rice at Shs 1,500, which has dropped to Shs 1,100 per kilogram this year. And hulled rice, which sold at Shs 3,200 last season, is now selling at Shs 2,000 per kilogram.
“This is when the rice is of high quality. If it is broken (into pieces), it is sold at Shs 1,800,” Odong said, adding that; “our bulk buyers used to come from central Uganda, but now when we call them to buy our rice, they say they have nowhere to sell the rice profitably because rice is all over the market. Our buyers are now the few in the sub region,” he said.
In all markets and rice hullers, super rice, which sold between Shs 3,500 to Shs 4,000, is now bought at Shs 3,000 only, while upland rice locally referred to as Sindani is bought at Shs 2,200 down from Shs 3,000 a kilogram.
The former LC-V Chairman of Nwoya district, Patrick Okello Oryema, said people who invested in growing rice are not doing well.
Oryema told theCooperator that some farmers with huge farms have abandoned rice growing frustrated by competition from rice producers in countries such as Tanzania.
Oryema himself still has more than 10 bags of rice in his store.
“The government of Uganda is encouraging rice production on a large scale, and it is the same government that is allowing rice from other countries to flood Ugandan markets,” Oryema said.
He said if the uncontrolled import of rice is not checked, many rice farmers will close shop.
“Almost all these 38 commercial farmers are involved in rice production and we fear most of these farmers will close, because it makes no sense to invest in a project that does not give you good returns,” he said.
Alfred Ocen, the Gulu District Commercial Officer, said the gradual decline in the price of rice is not only attributed to rice imports.
“I don’t think the issue is only on rice coming from other countries. We already have a problem, because the production has gone up in many districts in the Acholi sub region,” Ocen said.
“Remember during the first lockdown, the only activity that was left for many who lost their jobs was farming, that is why up to now, we still have a lot of rice in the sub region,” Ocen said.
According to a report by Uganda Revenue Authority, for the period ended April 2021, rice was the second most smuggled commodity into the country.
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