By Alexander Okori,
The long awaited multi-billion Teso fruit factory is set to be commissioned this month, October 2018. To boost returns through increased bargaining power, citrus farmers have been urged to form cooperatives.
“I appeal to farmers to form cooperatives in their districts and sub-counties. These will in turn have citrus collection centres where buyers will come at specific days,” said Mr. Jorem Opian, the Chairman of Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union.
While speaking at a meeting with citrus farmers in September 2018, Mr. Opian said many farmers sell their citrus individually during market days, and fetch low returns due to exploitation by middlemen.
“I have seen brokers buying oranges at Soroti market, where many farmers sell a 100 kilogram sack at average of Shs. 25000-30000, which is comparatively low. If those farmers sold their oranges per kilogram, they would probably fetch twice the price,” said Mr. Opian.
The establishment of the factory has been an ongoing project since 2015 and many have expressed concern over the delay in schedule.
In September 2018, Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde reaffirmed government’s commitment to ensure that the factory begins commercial production in late October 2018. The Minister was speaking during a ceremony to hand over 40 mechanical spray pumps to Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union.
“The factory is expected to process; over six metric tons of oranges per hour, two metric tonnes of mangoes per hour and four metric tonnes of pineapple per hour, amounting to 648,000 tonnes of oranges per year and 25,000 tonnes of mangoes per year,” said Hon. Kyambadde.
The Minister said the objective of the project is to increase the incomes of the fruit farmers by providing readily accessible and fairly priced market.
Teso sub region has three million fruit trees with a potential production of 600,000 metric tonnes of fruit per year.
The contracted fruit supplier for the factory is Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union yet their current supply does not meet the factory demand. Herein lies the opportunity for cooperatives.