Farmers in Kasese are counting heavy losses resulting from a sharp drop in tomato prices.
According to several farmers, the farm gate price fell from Shs 50,000 for a basket of tomatoes last season, to Shs 10,000 this season.
Several reasons have been cited for the drop, including: surplus produce due to a bumper harvest; transportation challenges; lack of access to markets and reduced demand.
The Chairperson of Nyabubare Tomatoes Farmers Cooperative Society, Doviko Bagonza, in Karusandara sub-county, blames the price drop on the disruption of transport.
“We [farmers] have lost market due to lack of transport means, which is leading to huge losses for us,” he said.
Bagonza appealed to government to help farmers add value to their produce.
”We appeal to government to give us processing machines to manufacture juice or tomato sauce because we now produce enough to sustain them,” he said.
Mr. Samuel Nyarwa, a tomato farmer in Karusandara sub-county Kasese district, said that farmers have had to abandon their crop in the garden due to limited demand.
“Our biggest clients were from the DRC and South Sudan, but because of the insurgencies in those countries, our customers are no longer coming to buy,” Nyarwa said
Henry Muhumuza, a large scale tomatoes’ farmer is afraid he will make huge losses this year as a result of the drop in tomato prices.
“I invested 69m into growing tomatoes on 24 acres of land, and got a bumper harvest. I was hoping for a 300m return, but we have been betrayed by the low price on the market,” he said.
He called upon the government to come to help farmers with accessing wider markets in order to absorb surplus produce.
“Many of us take agricultural loans for farming, but when we fail to get market for the produce, we suffer the consequences and banks end up attaching our properties”, Muhumuza said.
Invest in value addition
Lt. Col. Medhi Baguma, Coordinator Operation Wealth Creation, Busongora South constituency, urged farmers to invest more in value addition. This, he said, would cushion them from the negative impact of price fluctuations.
“It is true that our tomato farmers are faced with low prices this season, but I advise them to plan for value addition if they are to benefit even more from their crops,” he said.
Dembe Kasozi, the district councillor for Karusandara sub-county requested government to set up a tomato processing plant in the region as way of assisting farmers to add value to their produce.
“I appeal to government to bring us at least one machine for processing tomato sauce if we are to add value to our crops,” Dembe said.
Kasese district RDC, Lt. Joe Walusimbi, promised that his office would look into ways that the farmers can be assisted.
In a visit to the district last month, the minster for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Hon. Ssempijja Vincent Bamulangaki encouraged farmers to increase their production in order to justify government investment in value addition technology.
“For you to get machines from government, you be able to produce enough to justify the investment,” he said.
He promised to send a technical team from the ministry to assess the viability of setting up processing plants for various products in the area.