Farmers in Teso Sub-region have been advised to abandon traditional cotton cash crop and replace it with citrus fruits in order to harvest money and boost their income. The farmers were advised by Yoweri Museveni over the weekend while in the area to commission the fruit factory. Quoted by Uganda Radio Net Work, the President said that: “The production of citrus fruits in Teso sub-region alongside fish farming and poultry keeping can transform the region if perfected by the communities.” The Arapai based factory was established to mainly take advantage of the mangoes and orange fruits in Teso subregion as a government-directed intervention aimed at supporting value addition in fruit processing in the Teso Region. The plant has the capacity to crash six tons of concentrates from oranges per hour and two metric tons of mangoes per hour. President Museveni castigated colonialists for zoning Teso region and parts of Lango for cotton growing. He said the move misled farmers into investing time and other resources on a nonprofitable venture for the region. Trade Minister Amelia Kyambade said farmers should supplement the oranges with pineapples and mangoes in line with the government’s new strategic development plan of shifting to Agro-based industrialization. The multi-billion project is implemented through a joint venture partnership between Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) and Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union through a grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Under the arrangement for the establishment of the fruit factory, the government provided land, utilities, and infrastructure while KOICA pledged a grant of $7.4m for a Turnkey Factory involving the construction and machinery purchase, installation and commissioning.
Ha Byung Kyoo, the Korean ambassador to Uganda advised that smallholder farmers in Teso should be given priority to supply fruits to the factory directly so that they realize tangible income. Earlier, farmers expressed worry that they had not been advised on the prices at which the factory will be buying their produce. Initially, the farmers had been promised by Uganda Development Corporation that their fruits shall be bought at Shs600 per kilogram. Joseph Opit, a farmer from Serere district said farmers in Teso region have always suffered in the hands of middlemen who end up exploiting them by giving them little pay for their produce. Ben Eumu, another farmer from Ngora district asked Uganda Development Corporation to come clear on the prices for the fruits. He also advised that UDC should have a contingency fund to support the factory production by purchasing some acres of land for fruit growing in Teso. But Douglas Ndawula, the CEO of Soroti Fruits Limited said they cannot disclose the price in order to avoid unnecessary competition from other companies involved in juice processing. Ndawula is optimistic that Soroti Fruit Factory will provide a ready market for the fruits grown in the region all year round, enhance household incomes and improve livelihoods. For comments, call or text us on 0752510225.