Mango farmers in Yumbe District have lost hope of selling their product to the factory this season after the plant President Yoweri Museveni commissioned on January 9, this year, has until now failed to operate.
The farmers say this season’s mangoes are almost getting finished without being sold to the factory, forcing them to sell them in markets as they have been doing for years.
Mr Ismail Azubu, a mango farmer says though they formed cooperative societies as advised so they can sell their product to the factory collectively, they are not active.
“Cooperatives were formed successfully across the district and farmers registered themselves. But we are stranded because there is nothing like meetings and updates on the fate of the cooperatives. We don’t know how we are going to sell our mangoes if the factory starts operating.”
Mr Ali Dudu, a farmer with 10 acres in Lodonga sub-county said it would be better if the factory started operating soon because mango is a fast perishable fruit saying farmers have now decided to sell it in the local markets after waiting for the operationalisation in vain.
“I am ready to supply the factory with mangoes. But if the operationalisation of the plant delays, we farmers shall miss this opportunity because once mangoes begin to ripen, it will not last for long.”
But the Yumbe District Senior Commercial Officer, Victor Guma, said the issue of cooperatives has not yet been streamlined. He added that the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Secretariat made it clear that it would be the cooperatives to sell mangoes to the factory and that there was a plan to put middlemen between the factory and farmers. However, this is not yet in process.
“We have a challenge with the leadership of the cooperatives because some people from outside the district want to hijack the leadership of the cooperatives which is causing all the delays,” he said.
The Communications Officer at the NAADS Secretariat, Khadija Nakakande, said that engineers are still working on the factory compound, perimeter wall and the stores for receiving mangoes and keeping finished goods.
She revealed that pending works were earlier not part of the contract because Food and Nutrition Solution (FoNuS) – a private company that initiated the project asked the government to support them with equipment only.
“The government through NAADS secretariat agreed to support them with equipment. So, we bought and installed the equipment but afterwards, FoNuS asked for another support to construct the perimeter wall, stores and the compound. So, for that matter, we had to go into another agreement that caused the delays in operationalisation of the factory.”
Adding: “The factory is not initiated by the government but rather by professors from Makerere University and our task was to assist them with equipment so we have already done our part.”
Ms Nakakande said before the end of the calendar year 2021, processing of mangoes will begin.
The Director FoNuS, Prof William Kyamuhangire, said mango processing will begin this season but declined to tell the exact date for the factory to start operations.
“The factory is complete with equipment installed but the remaining works will not compel us from processing mangoes. Constructions will continue as we proceed with mango processing,” he said.
The technical launch of the factory took place on July 6, 2021, with some mangoes processed for testing the functionality of the equipment. Stakeholders were fascinated by the quality of the product.
Construction of the factory began in 2015. Its production capacity is five metric tonnes per hour and will be processing mainly local mangoes.
The project is undertaken by FoNuS, a company owned by Makerere University lecturers from the School of Food and Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering with a cost of over $4m (approx Shs17.6b).