Kasende sub-county in Kabarole district is known for several things. These include the many crater lakes as a result of volcanic reactions many years ago, the beautiful coffee shambas, but also a lot of bananas.
At the farm, you can get a big bunch at as low as sh3,000.
“The biggest bunch goes for sh6,000,” says Abdallah Mangalfi, a farmer. This is quite a huge bunch, that when it is brought to Kampala, it costs sh40,000.
Mangalfi says that these low prices heavily affect the profits of the farmer. An acre of bananas, takes 450 plants on planting. However, after the multiplication, as the mother plants start producing others, the total plants can go to as many as 1,350, especially if the farmer leaves three plants at every cluster.
During a month, a well-kept shamba can produce as many as 300 bunches. This means that if a farmer is selling them at sh6,000 each, then that adds up to around sh1.8m.
According to Moses Mugisa, a trader who buys bananas from Kabarole and sells them in Kampala, the prices are lower in the villages because of various reasons.
“A place like Kasenda sub-county is far off the road, this means that transport to carry the bananas from there is high,” he said.
Henry Ruyonga, a truck driver who regularly transports bananas from Kasende in Kabarole to Kampala says that he charges between sh3,000-4,000 for each bunch of bananas.
This means that if the trader bought the bunch at sh6,000, the first automatic addition to the cost is sh3,000, bringing the total cost to sh9,000. So then, why should the same bunch go for sh30,000?
“Of course there are other costs involved. I for example pay rent for the place that I use to sell the bananas,” Mugisa said.
He says that for each bunch sold, sh1,000 goes for paying ‘rent’ for the stall. He says that rent is different from the normal market fees.
“I pay another sh500 for each of the bunches I sell as market fee,” Mugisa says.
Both the rent and the market dues bring the costs of a big bunch to around sh11,500. Mugisa says that once these costs are taken care of, he can then start looking at a profit.
“During the rainy season when yields are high, I add an average sh4,000 to each bunch as my profit,” he says.
But since he is selling ‘wholesale’ to smaller traders who will need to make a profit, they also add between sh3,000-sh5,000. This means that a bunch that cost sh6,000 can cost around sh20,000 in the market in Kampala.
Mugisa however says that during periods of scarcity, the same bunch can go to as high as sh40,000.
Farmer Mangalfi believes that if the farmers became organized, bought their own trucks and started selling the bananas directly to the traders in city markets.
“This is what is really affecting the farmers. We must work at cooperating so that we earn more for our sweat,” he says.