By Chris Mugasha and Wilber Muhwezi
Conflicts in Arab countries have affected tea farmers in Bushenyi district. Igara Tea Growers chairman Arthur Babu said the conflicts have prevented the farmers from accessing the Arab market, yet they are the biggest tea consumers.
Babu said this has impacted on the Igara Tea Growers factory sales, reducing farmers’ profits.
Addressing share holders during their annual general meeting at the factory last week, Babu said Egypt has been taking about 30% of Igara tea.
“Do not think that those countries suffer alone. Such international issues are hindering our efforts in eradicating poverty,” said Babu.
He further disclosed that fluctuations in the dollar have affected their operations.
“Importation of fertiliser is costly,” he noted.
Babu said in other countries, government facilitates farmers to access fertilisers at a subsidised cost.
He also urged the Government to intervene and give special power lines to agro-processing factories.
“About 30% of the time the factory runs on a generator, which is costly and ends up encroaching on farmers’ profit margins,” Babu noted.
He said tea production is steadily increasing because of mobilisation campaigns, an issue that calls for vigorous planning.
Babu thanked President Yoweri Museveni for boosting Buhweju Tea Growers with one million tea seedlings.
Igara has set up another tea factory in Buhweju and the President is expected to officially open it soon.
“We want to put up a 2nd line at Igara tea factory in September to handle at least 70,000kg of green tea leaf per day,” Babu said.
The factory made a profit of sh4.9b for the year 2012.
Babu said the profits for 2011 were sh5.2b and in 2012, it dropped by sh292m because of the 50 bonus shillings the company gave to its farmers. This totalled to sh1.7b.
The factory, which has 6,856 farmers, sold 34 million kilogrammes of processed tea to mainly Asian countries.
The company transports its processed tea to Mombasa where it meets waiting buyers.
“Tea has ready market in Mombasa. We just find buyers waiting for us and their prices are good,” Vicent Birungi, a board member said.
Birungi said in 2014, the company will buy a kilogramme of unprocessed tea at between sh500 to sh530, which will boost farmers’ incomes.
He, however, noted that factory has a debt of sh8b.
“We can pay the loan and still remain rich. We don’t have any problem,” Muguzi said
The tea growers appealed to local governments to priotise roads development.
“There is need to develop the local markets by working on the infrastructure to be able to reach every corner of the country,” said Yorokamu Batuna, a tea farmer.
“The poor roads sometimes hinder our quality,” Batuna noted.
George Kyankoyo, another tea farmer, called upon the Government to avail them with tractors to be able to expand their plantations.