HomeAGRICULTURETea Farmers Blamed for low price exports 

Tea Farmers Blamed for low price exports 

Joshua Nahamya

Bushenyi 

Tea farmers in Uganda have been blamed for low prices due to the poor quality green tea they produce for the market.

According to John Bosco Atuhairwe, the Field Manager of Igara Growers Tea Factory, in June 2023, a kilogram of green tea dropped from Shs 560 to 200 shillings. At the Mombasa Tea Auction, the price of Uganda tea dropped from US $ 0.65 per kilogram, a trend reportedly attributed to the poor quality of the green leaf.

While attending a stakeholders’ meeting at Kyamuhunga Catholic Hall, Atuhairwe blamed the tea farmers saying that they have failed to apply fertilizers in their gardens and others use rudimentary post-harvest methods thus compromising the quality of green tea.

“Last year when the prices were doing well, we had an average of 1.4 USD per kilogram but this year we are in 0.9 cents not even making a dollar but the cost of production is 1.5 USD so we are almost making a loss of an average of Shs 2000 on average per kilogram,” Atuhairwe said

Tea Growing in Kyamuhunga Sub-County along Mbarara-Kasese road. Joshua Nahamya

He added that the Igara Growers tea factory put an incentive on fertilisers but was violated by farmers.

“We agreed with farmers who are the shareholders of the tea company to provide inputs like fertilizers, agrochemicals and extension services for them to pay at their convenience but instead of servicing their loans for the inputs after harvest, they would supply green tea leaf to the upcoming private tea companies thus appealing farmers to be royal to their factories,” he said

Atuhairwe said that the increasing number of private tea factories in Uganda has compromised the quality of green tea in the market thus appealing to the government to regulate.

“Most of the factories just get raw materials, process and make breakeven to get profits which has affected the quality of tea that Uganda produces for the market,” Atuhairwe said

He also attributed the low tea prices to wars that are ongoing in the foreign countries thus appealing to farmers to persevere with hopes of tea prices to stabilise.

“The moment the war breaks, automatically the consumption reduces and even when the flow of the dollars reduce, definitely the prices get affected,” Atuhairwe said

Freddie Tibesigwa, the senior agricultural engineer Bushenyi rallied tea farmers in the district to embark on a quality drive to have quality tea that can earn them better market prices.

“Instead of crying to the government all the time, farmers and processors can produce quality green leaf tea then the prices will get revised because when you go to Kenya people are getting 2-4 dollars, in Rwanda, some companies are getting 6 dollars and you ask yourself what magic bullet are they using that we cannot do here in Uganda,” Tibesigwa asked

He also encouraged farmers to practice crop diversification instead of relying on a single cash crop.

“It is a mistake to rely on one crop, the better way is to have a portion for cash crops and food crops so that when the tea money delays, you can have food to save your family from the crisis,” Tibesigwa said

Also, Canon Apollo Buzare, who owns an 80-acre tea estate in the Sheema district conquered with Tibesigwa that it is the tea farmers who are killing the quality of tea in the region which has resulted in low tea prices.

“Farmers we are to blame because people of Rwanda get their fertiliser from Russia equally we get it from Russia but why is it that their tea is bought at Shs 30,000 while ours is at Shs 7000?,” he said

Bizarre spends over Shs 30 million on fertilizers and chemicals every six months thus urging fellow tea farmers to do the same if they are to get a quality harvest.

“A 50-kilogramme [kg] bag of fertiliser from the Igara Tea Factory costs Shs 130,000, adding that an acre of tea requires about 150 kg of fertiliser, applied twice a year to get quality yields.” He explained

The Buhweju West Member of Parliament Hon. Ephraim Biraaro Ganshanga asked the government to subsidize the price of inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, and others if tea farmers are to breakeven.

“I am also a tea farmer but if the government does not subsidise the cost of fertilisers in the market then we are not going to survive furthermore,” Biraro said

The Bushenyi district council formulated an ordinance to help regulate the tea industry at the local level as they waited for the government’s response.

“The quality of the tea we produce is the biggest problem. That’s why prices have been cut. We must look at the post-handling and transportation of tea and make sure that we control the supply of fake inputs” Jafari Basajabalaba, LC V chairman of Bushenyi district said

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