By Patrick Jaramogi
ARUA, UGANDA: A while back, we reported in these pages how West Nile Growers Cooperative Union had made a bumper harvest from tobacco growing.
4 months later, it has emerged that the farmers, who sell their produce through their cooperative – West Nile Cooperative Union have yet to receive payment for their produce, prompting the cooperative Union to impound trucks of the defaulting buyer – Continental Tobacco Uganda Ltd.
The 9000 farmers had in January this year sold over 1,500 metric tons of Tobacco worth 7.5billion, to Continental Tobacco Uganda Ltd.
Moses Itukebo, the (cooperative)Union Manager told thecooperator that they (the union) at first tried to resolve the issue legally by engaging their lawyers, but had to resort to alternative means when the legal route did not seem to bear fruit fast.
“We were under so much pressure from the farmers who supplied us with their tobacco, and we couldn’t find convincing answers for them,” he said. “So when the dealers promised to clear, we allowed them to come and load more tobacco. After loading 10 trucks, we locked the gates and impounded the trucks as advised by our lawyers. We shall only release the trucks after they pay in full what they owe us,” said Itukebo.
theCooperator has learnt that earlier this week, crisis meetings were being held by the Continental Tobacco top management in Nairobi to clear the impasse. A source hinted to this publication that they would clear the union by the end of this week.
Tobacco remains a popular cash crop in West Nile, and a major contributor to the country’s revenue basket. In 2017, Uganda earned over shs18 billion in terms of tax from tobacco sales, making the crop the biggest tax earner in the Agriculture sector, way ahead of major cash crops like coffee, and tea.
Currently, the price of TO1 (Top Orange), which is considered the best tobacco goes for between shs6,800- shs8,000, while TO2 goes for between shs4800- shs5800.
Others like the MO1(Middle Orange) and M02 go for between shs3,800- shs4,000 depending on availability.