Pineapple Farmers Are Demanding For A Factory

NTUGAMO – Farmers in Ntungamo are crying over the continuous drop in pineapple prices in the district.

Justus Tayebwa, a renowned pineapple farmer, blames the drop in prices on the Covid-19 lockdown which has continued to haunt farmers in the district.

Tayebwa owns over 10 acres of pineapple gardens in Nyaruhama cell, Nyamukana town council, Ntungamo district but laments the low sales.

During an exclusive interview over the weekend, Tayebwa told theCooperator that pineapple businesses in the district came to a standstill after the president announced the second Covid-19 lockdown in June 2021.

He says the traders who used to buy their pineapples from Kampala at a relatively higher price ceased coming to their gardens.

“We used to sell our pineapples to business people from Kampala but after the declaration of the lockdown, these traders have never appeared to our gardens again. A trader would be willing to buy but then tells you where will I sell them when hotels like Serena and the rest are all closed?” Tayebwa explained.

He says that farmers were left with no option but resort to roadside trading to avoid their products from getting bad.

“Roadside stalls have increased in number and even some of our pineapple farmers are running after any passing vehicle to at least reduce the number of pineapples getting bad from the gardens,” Tayebwa added.

He says that a pineapple which used to be bought at Shs 1000 at farm price is now being sold between Shs 300-500.

“Looking at the ongoing circumstances, I can assure you that we are being cheated by buyers because they take advantage of the fact that we are stuck with these pineapples in the gardens,” Tayebwa emphasizes.

“We invest a lot but they buy our pineapples cheaply, at least they would be buying them at Shs 2000 counting on what we go through up to the harvesting time especially during the dry seasons,” he adds.

Tayebwa called upon the government to construct an active pineapple fruit processing factory in the district that would consume the production in Nyamukana hills, a famous area for pineapple growing.

“We are entirely pineapple growers and I would like to confirm that each family in Nyamukana town council has at least a pineapple garden. It may not be all that big but some even harvest about 5-6 trucks in a season though we’ve been let down by the market,” he said.

Tayebwa also attributed the low pineapple market on impassable roads in the newly elevated town council.

“Our pineapple market is bad because of poor infrastructure such as roads and electric power connections that cause poor mobility and smooth running of businesses. So, we appeal to the new town council leaders to work on our roads to enable our produce to gain market,” he said.

Tayebwa says that development in Nyamukana has turned to a night mare as per farmers’ expectations due to increased pineapple production in the area.

“Because we have high pineapple production, we expected government support with factories for our pineapples to gain momentum in the area but this has not come true. Since business inception, it has instead worsened the pineapple prices thus low standards of living,” he explained.

Tayebwa employs about 35 casual laborers and expected about Shs 1billion from pineapple growing at the end of the year.

However, Nathan M. Kahangirwe, the Chairperson Nyakihanga Fruits and Vegetable Growers’ Cooperative Society says the district has a fruit factory that was commissioned in January 2020 but has failed to perform to the farmers’ expectations.

According to Kahangirwe, the factory was established by the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and it cost shs. 1.4billion. It was expected to process 700 pineapples producing over 111 litters in an hour. It was also supposed to operate eight hours a day absorbing a total of 5600 pineapples.

Tayebwa says that none of the farmers in the district has ever supplied it with about 500-1000 pineapples since last year.

“We thought everything was going to be sorted but instead the situation has worsened because it processes on a slow pace compared to the high pineapple production in the area,” says Tayebwa.

He instead appealed to the government to add two more pineapple factories to boost pineapple processing in order to address market related issues in the area.

Kahangirwe says as a leadership, they decided to suspend the operations of the factory due to numerous challenges that require government intervention.

He says that the mechanical part of the factory is incomplete adding that they also need filling and packing machines.

“We were packing our juice from the factory manually but to improve on capacity production, we need additional parts for packing to improve on quality and time management,” Kahangirwe explained.

He says that they are also faced with a challenge of human resource since they don’t have qualified staff to operate the squeezer and boilers in the factory.

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