Teso Fruit Farmers Reap Big from Soroti Fruit Factory
By John Ogulei
Whereas there are a series of controversies over the operations of Soroti Fruit Factory, a section of citrus farmers in Teso sub region are reaping big after supplying the factory with fruits.
Soroti Fruit Factory has been embroiled in controversies with some Teso Politicians accusing the factory management of abandoning and not purchasing Fruits from Teso.
During President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni visit to Teso, a section of Teso leaders headed by Ngora District Woman MP and the State Minister for ICT Peter Ogwang, asked President Museveni to intervene into the operations of the factory accusing the leadership of not buying Teso fruits.
The leaders wan Soroti Fruit Factory to absorb fruits being produced by Teso farmers and called upon the government to expand the capacity of the factory in Soroti to accommodate all the oranges in Teso.
A furious Museveni however asked Dr. Okasai Opolot, an agricultural expert whom he worked with closely in determining the variety of fruits best fit for the Sub Region to explain.
In response, Dr. Okasai refuted the leaders’ arguments that the factory was looking for cheaper oranges to save money.
But the factory leadership also headed by Ndawula Douglas refuted the Teso leaders’ claims revealing that the factory was buying fruits in Teso and dismissed the allegations saying the leaders were liars.
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This controversy has compelled this website to dig deep into the issues surrounding the operations of Soroti Fruit Factory and its relationship with the fruit farmers.
According to a section of farmers sampled by this website, their livelihoods have since changed from the time the factory started its operations two years ago.
Yoweri Aceger, a farmer in Dokolo Parish, Gweri Sub County who operates a farm of over 52 acres told this reporter that his fortunes have increased from the time the factory started.
He said he engaged in citrus growing in 2007 but he did not benefit from the sale of fruits but when the factory came he now realizes a lot of money that has enabled him construct and complete his three houses.
“It’s very painful to learn that a section of Teso leaders are not happy with the operations of the factory. As a farmer, I have benefited much from the factory. I have constructed my three houses even my other members have benefited,” said Aceger.
He added that it was unfortunate that people who are not farmers are the ones complaining yet the real beneficiaries are silent.
Robert Ogalo, a resident of Orupe and a former Taxi driver who decided to abandon his job for citrus growing in 2007 says he doesn’t regret joining citrus growing because with the establishment of Soroti Fruit factory, he now supplies the factory with fruits.
He revealed to this reporter that the only challenge faced by several Teso farmers who haven’t benefited or sold fruits to the factory is that they do not want to get registered into cooperative unions.
“Our farmers do not want to join cooperatives in order to benefit. You see me and my team, we quickly joined the cooperative and now we supply the factory. We have even been prequalified again to supply the factory with fruits,” Added Ogalo.
He further stressed that Teso farmers are faced with several operational challenges including lack of motorized pumps, no serious extension services offered and transportation of fruits to the factory
James Elianu of Aipecitoi Fruit Growers in Kyere Sub County also told this website that they started supplying the factory last year and have also been prequalified to supply more 30 tons of citrus.
He said citrus growing and sale of fruits to the factory has helped him take care of his family, relatives and now employs over 10 people.
Michael Odeke of Asamuk also praises the factory management for accepting to buy their fruits.
Jorem Opian, the chairperson Teso Tropical Fruits Cooperative Union has commended the government for establishing the factory in Teso but calls for more financial support.
He also asked the government to expand the operations of the factory saying the current capacity cannot absorb the available over one million metric tons of oranges produced in Teso.