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Trade ministry asked to explain cause-of-low prices of cotton in the country

KAMPALA, February 1, 2024 – Members of Parliament have asked the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives [MTIC] to explain the cause of the low prices of cotton, and other cash crops, which they say is adversely affecting farmers in regions such as West Nile.

According to Padyere County MP, Isaac Otimgiw, the Cotton Development Organisation [CDO] set the purchasing price for a kilogramme of cotton at Shs 2,300 as per the 2023 season, however, it is not being adhered to.

“In Nebbi District, farmers are being offered prices as low as Shs1,300 and they have been given no other choice. The Ministry of Trade must tell the House why they have allowed our farmers to be exploited this way,” said Otimgiw on Wednesday during a plenary sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa.

Obongi County MP, George Bhoka, said a number of cotton-growing districts in West Nile have been affected by the low pricing of the crop despite high investments by the farmers.

“Cotton is being bought on credit and some farmers have not been paid. We pray that government takes steps to see to it that this sector is not wiped out,” said Bhoka.

Abed Bwanika, the Kimaanya-Kabonera Division legislator said he had previously sought leave of the House to introduce the Contract Farming Bill that seeks to regulate contracts and block farming in the country.

Under contract farming, an agreement exists between a buyer and farmers to supply a specific quantity and quality of agricultural products at agreed pricing conditions at a specified date of delivery.

“Mr Speaker, this Bill is ready and I request for space on the order paper to have it read for the first time. It will cure the gaps which my honourable colleagues have raised,” said Bwanika.

The State Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives [Industry], David Bahati, attributed the fluctuation in prices of cotton, maize, sugar and tea to the free market economy under which the country currently operates.

“When the prices of items come down, the buyers of the crops also reduce the prices. I know there is minimum intervention by government on cotton but we can have engagements with farmers to reach an agreed position,” said Bahati.

CDO is mandated to monitor the production, processing, and marketing of cotton in Uganda. However CDO is  to be wiped out as government moves on with the plan to merge some of its agencies.

Cotton was introduced in Uganda in 1903 by the British colonialists to serve as a cash crop and raw material for textiles abroad.

Meanwhile, the minister said he recently held a meeting with the Mayor of Masindi Municipality on the matter of sugar prices, saying they will engage manufacturers and farmers so as to resolve the matter.

On his part, Deputy Speaker Tayebwa proposed a mechanism to stabilise the Uganda Shilling against foreign currencies so as to cushion against shocks occasioned by international pricing.

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