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Pallisa farmers decry market access problems caused by COVID-19 lockdown

Fresh agricultural produce is piling up, unconsumed, at various farm gates in Pallisa district, resulting in major losses for the farmers unable to sell their produce due to market access bottlenecks brought about by the COVID-19-related restrictions.

For most farmers, the restrictions on public transport and the ban of weekly markets where they normally sold their produce were key impediments to their access to inputs and outputs markets.

As a result, Tom Ojangole, an extension worker with Pallisa Farmers Association [PFA] said that farmers have registered a net decline in prices of agricultural produce, resulting in losses.

“Prices of most farm produce have drastically gone down because of the transport restrictions, while that in storage is rotting because of reduced number of buyers,” Ojangole said.

Ojangole made the remarks at a meeting in Pallisa district that brought together several Civil Society Organisations to discuss the state of agricultural businesses during the pandemic.

 “Produce buyers are also faced with the issue of ever falling produce prices, which has totally demoralized both farmer and buyer,” Ojangole said.

He singled out prices of cassava which have dropped from Shs 1500 to Shs 350 per kilo, Maize from Shs 1000 to Shs 500 per kilo, rice from Shs 4000 to 1800 per kilo and Ground nuts from Shs 6000 to Shs 4000, as just a few examples among many produce categories that have been affected by the pandemic.

Simon Peter Nakola, an advocacy officer with Pallisa Civil Organization Network [PACONET] also emphasized the role transport limitations due to COVID have played in restricting market access for farm produce.

“The trucks that used to traverse some of these areas to buy produce are no longer coming because of the pandemic. The situation is not so good.”

However, Nakola observed that some individuals are exploiting the misery of farmers desperate to sell off their perishable goods.

“The buyers are taking this advantage to extort farmers under the pretext of lack of market by giving them a low price but, because of the situation, farmers have no alternative but to accept the given price,” he said.

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