The drastic drop in the price of maize grain in Kakumiro has coerced some farmers in the district to ponder about abandoning growing the crop for commercial purposes but rather majorly for food and mulching purposes.
Mr Taddewo Senyonyi, a farmer in the area says the price has fallen far below his imagination to the extent that he contemplates growing the crop for his animals attributing the drop to exploitative middle men. The price has fallen from Shs500 to Shs350.
“Few months ago, I revealed why I no longer grow maize for commercial reasons. I grow it for food and mulching purposes as the rest is sold to cover production costs. However, this time I won’t sell because the exploitative buyers in Kakumiro are currently offering Shs350 per kilogramme.”
Mr Senyonyi adds that middle men predict the price to drop further translating into another record loss almost similar with that of 2018 when a kilogramme of maize grain fell as low as Shs100 in some parts of Bunyoro region.
“I am told prices could fall up to Shs200. I reject this arrogance. I will instead buy pigs and put this maize to greater use. Farmers don’t have the patience to wait mainly because they have pressing issues that require money. But they also lack proper storage facilities.”
The maize grower blames the continual dropping prices of maize grain to government saying it has taken little care about farmers’ agricultural output in form of marketing and price legislation of the produce. He says such a trend has lagged farmers behind financially.
“Our government and line ministers are silent. But they want to fight poverty and move the country into a lower middle income status. With the disorganisation of farmers after the death of many cooperative societies across the country, farmers are left at the mercy of middlemen or buyers. Farmers are now price takers of what they produce,” Mr Senyonyi wonders.
Mr Senyonyi says with the unending price fluctuation, farmers continue incurring losses endlessly suggesting that the cycle can be broken if the price goes up at least twofold. He also advises government to borrow and adopt some strategies about price setting from countries in the region.
“In fact, many farmers are making losses. In maize farming, you can breakeven when a kilogramme is bought at Shs700 upwards. This is where government need to come in. it should borrow a leaf from Kenya that sets purchasing prices for maize every season. Minimum price for maize and coffee is important.”
Mr George William Senkusu, another maize grower in the district is baffled that maize fluctuation is continuous in Uganda raising his eyebrows that there could be foul play in the scheme.
He wonders that despite the repeated price instability, government has not taken some steps to address the matter that keeps farmers in poverty.
“Is maize really a low value crop? The sharp falling of maize prices is a recurrent story in Uganda. May be there are some people benefiting from this exploitation. This state of affairs raises key questions whether the Uganda government including ministries, agencies and departments has marketing plans for various key crops or we simply produce anyhow. Government does not properly guide farmers.”
Mr Henry Kibuka, also a maize grower does not know how mainly politicians intend to fix the agriculture sector at this time when they have been elected for the five-year-term adding that they have a huge task ahead.
“The sector which is a backbone of Uganda’s economy is promising but it has so many challenges that require urgent attention.”
In October last year, the Trade Ministry Commissioner for External Trade, Godfrey Mutahunga advised Ugandans to abide by the production standards that were harmonised for the whole region to relatively stabilise maize grain prices.