The Masindi District Commercial Officer (DCO), Mr Moses Kalyegira, has warned of a further drop in the price for maize grain if educational institutions remained closed in the country.
Mid March this year, government closed down all learning establishments as part of the measures of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Uganda.
Mr Kalyegira notes that educational institutions are the biggest consumer market for maize product in the country; thus, their closure reduced its demand which has greatly affected its price since traders usually buy it and supply its flour to these institutions.
The DCO discloses that at the time schools were closed, a kilogramme of maize grain stood at more than Shs1,000 but drastically dropped to Shs700 a month later. Currently, a kilogramme stands between Shs500 and Shs200 in Masindi.
Mr Kalyegira adds that the COVID-19 restrictions that were imposed at the borders with Uganda also stopped many Ugandan traders from exporting the maize grain to the neighbouring countries. This further reduced its market.
“When the lockdown was announced in March, the price for maize had increased to above Shs1,000. Remember the term had just begun. Unfortunately, schools closed and the farmer could not sell because produce dealers buy with intent to supply to the market. All educational institutions including, primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions and universities were closed leading to a fall in the price of maize,” he says.
“Sometimes neighbouring countries buy our maize and traders were able to cross because there weren’t any restrictions against exporting crops. But because of the confusion that took place at the border where one’s truck could spend like two weeks without being cleared, caused the traders to lose guts. So, this resulted into a fall in price,” Mr Kalyegira continues.
The commercial officer predicts a further fall in the price when the maize for this year’s first season dries up before schools are re-opened.
“If the situation remains like this, it will be terrible because farmers are now harvesting. This means that the price will fall further. However, we are optimistic that if government implements its system of buying farmers’ crops and paying them, it would be better. However, mark that government systems take long.”
Mr Kalyegira, however, advises farmers to diversify their farming practices by planting different crops as government plans to help Uganda’s maize grain access foreign market in order to overcome the biting low price.
“But we are hopeful that once schools re-open the price of maize will increase. So, maize farmers will have to be patient a bit. As much as government plans to look for foreign markets, it will take a little longer. People have been asking me if they can continue planting maize. Yes, planting maize is good but we should try to diversify because there are crops that do not depend on schools yet with a big market and fetching high income. These include peanuts and beans. The demand for beans is always available because even non students consume them,” he advises.
Mr Kanaginagi Ateenyi, a resident of Bbookwe village in Pakanyi sub-county is one the famous maize farmers in Masindi district. He says he is harvesting his maize for the first season but he cannot sell it at the current price for fear of incurring losses.
Mr Kanaginagi adds that he intends to first keep his maize and sell at a later date when the price appreciates.
“Schools are our major maize market since students consume maize meal. But since the schools closed, the market became low and as we talk now, after harvesting the price for maize grain is between Shs400 and Shs500 yet it would be between Shs600 and Shs700. I was calculating the production cost as of now including the application of fertilizers among others the price should be at Shs600 which is already a loss,” he says.
Adding: “I am now harvesting my maize. But I will first keep it until October or November because experience shows that early sales are rare. By November 16, when the price shall still be remaining low, then I will sell it off.”