Coffee nursery bed operators stuck with seedlings

Coffee Nursery Seed Bed Operators at a nursery bed in Kagadi Town Council, Kagadi District. (Photo: Gad Asaba)

More than 3,000 coffee nursery bed operators are stuck with coffee seedlings worth Shs58b meant to be supplied to farmers in seven regions of the country.

The nursery bed operators were certified by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to supply farmers with the seedlings for five years in both seasons running from March – May and August – November every year.

The operators were tasked to supply at least 10 million coffee seedlings at Shs350 each to farmers.

This translates into at least 70 million coffee seedlings per season to farmers in all the seven regions including mid-western, Rwenzori, northern, western, eastern, southern and central.

However, the operators say it baffles them after learning of government change of strategy that the Shs58m government budgeted for the UCDA has been diverted to the Parish Development Model (PDM) scheme.

The operators say such a diversion means government will no longer procure their seedlings leaving them stranded with more than 150 million ready seedlings worth Shs58b.

Coffee nursery bed operators from various regions of the country converged and interfaced with their fellow operators in Kagadi town council, Kagadi district who explained that they are stuck with this year’s seedlings yet they were planted by the approval and under the supervision of the UCDA.

Ms Gladys Biira, a coffee nursery bed operator from Kasese district, questions government’s position about the matter since it supplied them with the seedlings for germination so that they can later supply them to farmers.

She says she has been securing loans to pay the nursery bed attendants and now stands a risk of financial institutions attaching her properties to pay off the debts owed.

Sound bite: Biira on coffee seedlings (English)

Mr Musa Solo, a nursery bed operator from Bundibugyo district fears that farmers in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts are likely to lose 1.5 million seedlings if the government does not address the matter expeditiously.

He contemplates seeking legal action in a court of law if the government fails to act accordingly.

Ms Annette Kiiza Mugisa, also a nursery bed operator, says she is stuck with 28 million coffee seedlings worth Shs900m.  She calls for government action about the issue.

Sound bite: Mugisa on coffee seedlings (English)

The matter has also affected nursery bed attendants who say they are still demanding their wages from their employers for the last two seasons of 2021.

Ms Caroline Ajuna, an attendant at Ms Margaret Bindeba’s coffee nursery bed says she is struggling financially after the UCDA failed to pay her boss for last year’s product, urging the government to intervene.

Sound bite: Ajuna on coffee seedlings (Runyoro/Rutooro)

The Chairman Rwenzori Region Coffee Nursery Bed Operators, Mr Matia Tumwebaze, wonders why UCDA and the Ministry of Agriculture have non-reactive to the matter yet the operators are certified by the government.

He wants the government to return the Shs58b to the UCDA from the PDM where it is reportedly been taken.

The chairman says it is difficult for the suppliers to convince farmers to buy the seedlings since the latter are accustomed to receiving coffee freebies from the government.

Mr Tumwebaze threatens to mobilise fellow coffee nursery bed operators so that they can take legal action if the government remains obstinate.

Sound bite: Tumwebaze on coffee seedlings (English)

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