- Tobacco, which is a major income generating cash crop in West Nile region employs more than 200 farmers in Maracha district
- Besides the poor yields, some of the farmers have also complained about high loan charges levied by some tobacco companies operating in the district
- And others also raised concerns about reduction in the price of some tobacco grades
By Atiku Robert
Maracha- Tobacco farmers from the district are counting losses after recording poor tobacco yields this season.
The farmers say that the poor yields were due to low quality seedlings, long dry spell during planting season and diseases.
Mr Rofine Onale a farmer from Lala marketing area said on Tuesday that: “I planted two acres of tobacco. I thought I would get some good money but the yields have disappointed me. I am just struggling to clear the company loans. Previously, the two acres used to earn for me between Shs 7 to Shs 8 million. Now I have got less than one million even.”
Mr Ponzio Anguyo another tobacco farmer said: “It is through tobacco growing that I earn my livelihood and pay school fees for my children. I planted three acres of tobacco buy the yields are poor. I suspect that the problem originated from the quality of seedlings I planted.”
Besides the poor yields, some of the farmers have also complained about high loan charges levied by some tobacco companies operating in the district. And others also raised concerns about reduction in the price of some tobacco grades.
Mr George Andama another farmer says the loan charges levied by some companies is not proportional to the quantity of inputs borrowed and acreage of tobacco grown.
“Some of us pay back more in terms of loans than what remains for us. The company benefits more than us. They need to revisit the loan charges.” Mr George laments.
Mr Modesto Asiolea a tobacco farmer also complained about the reduction in the price of a grade of tobacco from Shs 8000 per kilogram to Shs 7500 per kilogram.
“I am about to finish curing my tobacco because the yields were poor. What worries me now is the reduction in prices. This will affect loan repayment. I don’t know how I will survive,” he said.
And Mr Franco Onzima the farmers’ representative in Lala marketing area with Alliance One Tobacco Company said: “The farmers who planted early have fairly good yields but the ones who planted in March are heavily affected. I appeal to the farmers is that they should plant early next season.”
Mr Robert Elonyu the Leaf Growing Manager Alliance One Tobacco Company Arua said most of the farmers late planted their crops and they were affected by drought. “We had also some disease called Bushier-top which affected some fields. And some farmers don’t have adequate burn space to cure their tobacco,” he said.
On the issue of reduced prices, Mr Elonyu said that the changes in prices were communicated to the farmers in time and prices are based on the international market, adding that when prices go down, they are also forced to reduce them locally.