BY DAVID MAFABI
MBALE-Coffee and Tea farmers across the country have every reason to smile as the government has agreed to release UgShs30 billion towards the supply of seedlings to coffee and tea farmers, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Matia Kasaija, has said.
“We shall release the money to Uganda Coffee Development Authority and National Agricultural Advisory Services as per the budget. I need to check with the Treasury, but we shall release the money as soon as possible,” Mr Kasaija said.
Kasaija made this commitment to farmers while making a statement on the supply of coffee and tea seedlings during the plenary sitting on September 27.
But he was quick to clarify that the demand for seedlings stands at UgShs93 billion and that the release to be made in this financial year does not include the excess of UgShs60 billion.
“The money in the budget is not sufficient to cover all the seedlings in nursery beds. There is a need for an additional Shs60 billion which will be paid in the next two financial years,” Mr Kasaija explained.
He revealed that the additional supply of seedlings will be done through the Savings and Credit Associations under the Parish Development Model (PDM).
He explained that up until the 2021/2022 financial year, government policy had been for Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) to procure seedlings from certified coffee and tea nursery operators.
“However, the government has since decided to transfer funding previously appropriated for procurement of seedlings from UCDA and NAADs to PDM starting this financial year, 2022/2023,” said Kasaija.
The Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, said that the Ministry will ensure that seedlings are supplied, once the authorisation is given.
“We have won one step, the Minister of Finance has allowed the supply of seedlings, even if there is no money, as long as the Minister of Finance and the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to Treasury write and authorise supply, it will take place,” Mr Tumwebaze said.
He added that the Ministry of Agriculture together with that of Finance will work out modalities for verification of coffee farmers and suppliers.
“We shall verify who has been supplied such that you do not come and tell us that air was supplied. The Treasury is tight, every penny paid must be accounted for. Verification should be left to the Ministry of Agriculture,” said Tumwebaze.
But Mr Nicholas Nangumba, one of the leading Coffee farmers in Mbale has cautioned farmers in Bugisu against such seedlings.
“Sometimes the government has supplied fake seeds that don’t germinate to the farmers through NAADs and I want to warn the Coffee farmers to continue with their traditional Arabica seedlings that are produced locally here,” said Mr Nangumba.
He told this website that OWC supplied seeds that failed to germinate due to various factors including pollination failure, resource deficiency, predation, and genetic defects causing developmental failure adding that this was because seeds meant for the low land areas were supplied in the hills while those meant for the hills were supplied in low land area
He explained that farmers need better seedlings but that as long as the government is thinking that people remain poor in order to manage them, “Please Bugisu traditional farmers should first examine the Coffee seedlings before accepting them,” he added.
In October 2018, the farmers in Gulu and Bugisu claimed that some of the seeds previously distributed by OWC in the area failed to germinate.
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, appealed to the Ministers to expedite the supply of seedlings, taking into account the rainy season which ends in a few months.
“What we need are the seedlings, you will pay these people later. The pressure is based on the fact that rains are not waiting. We want you to authorise responsible entities in line with appropriated funds then we start the process,” said Tayebwa.
He also advised the Minister of Finance to appropriately handle the supply of seedlings that were not budgeted for in the 2022/2023 financial year budget.
Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, acknowledged the limited funding but called for proper implementation of the 2022/2023 financial year budget.
“The demands of our people are legitimate. We can agree to work with what is available, we shall support you. We ask you to move decently, government must move as per the plan. Stick to the budget and we shall not demand more,” Mpuuga said. Ends