By Eliphaz Ssekabira
President Yoweri Museveni was on February 17 expected to launch the Namunkekera Rural Industrial Zone located in Kapeeka subcounty, Nakaseke District.
The Rural Industrial Zone will have several factories such as the tomato processing factory, a maize mill, dairy and brick making.
The idea to start the tomato processing factory was promised by the Government in 1998 as a way to improve livelihoods of the locals in Nakaseke District.
The tomato factory, whose construction was spearheaded by the Senior Presidential Adviser on Security, Gen. Salim Saleh, will create over 50 direct jobs and over 400 farmers will initially benefit from the initiative.
Former finance minister and Nakaseke North MP, Syda Bbumba has also been instrumental in mobilising the farmers under a new company, Bulemezi 2014 Ltd .
The new factory will initially start with the making of basic tomato products like tomato sauce and chili but will later produce tomato juice, cake, paste, pulp, concentrate and diced tomatoes.
Farmers in the crop farming communities in the sub counties of Kapeeka, Semuto, Nakaseke and Kasangombe in Nakaseke South Constituency are set to benefit from this factory which is an addition to the already existing maize mill at the Namunkekera based agro-processing industries. The number of tomato farmers can increase from 400 to 1,000, if every sub county can mobilise at least 200 farmers.
As residents in Nakaseke district, we must applaud General Salim Saleh for initiating the industrial zone where local farmers are set to benefit as this will help to solve the post storage problems currently experienced by farmers.
Our counterparts in the Nakaseke North Constituency, particularly the cattle rearing sub counties of Ngoma, Wakayato, Kinyogoga, Kinono, Kito and Kikamulo are set to benefit from the a$300 special economic zone for beef production in the area which will be funded by a Turkish company, ASB Group.
Farmers under the project area will participate in the breeding of improved livestock on a timely basis and in conformity with international standards.
Farmers in the District should take advantage of these two initiatives to move from subsistence production to the commercial enterprises so as to contribute to the monetary economy.
Conservation and processing of tomatoes will definitely reduce the heavy losses the farmers have been incurring because of the short shelf life as tomatoes get rotten during the bumper harvest.
The pertinent issue is how to keep tomato suppliers as they can easily be swayed by the market changes. Will the farmers continue supplying the factory if the market prices have gone up on the market over the agreed rate in the Memorandum of understanding?
Will the factory keep its word on the price if there is a bumper harvest? Will the farmers stick to the tomato business if the market presents another lucrative agricultural enterprise?
The other issue which should be addressed is the unpredictable weather in the area as this greatly determines the supply of agricultural products. This will call for irrigation during dry seasons.
The Government can assist farmers by establishing farmer shops to provide irrigation equipment to farmers at subsidised prices. Other agricultural inputs like seeds, accaricides, fungicides and standardised fertilizers can also be accessed at these shops.
Farmers in Nakaseke District have on several occasions been duped into production of enterprises only to be abandoned by the promoters. A case in point is the upland rice growing by the former vice-president, Prof Gilbert Bukenya who did not deliver on his promise of providing the necessary equipment to the farmers to process their rice before taking it to the market.
Tomato production should, however, not divert farmers from other enterprises like clonal coffee, fruits like mangoes, oranges and water melon together with food crops like bananas and cassava.
Farmers should put the factory to proper use by supplying the necessary quantities to tap on the ready market of the tomato products not only in Uganda but also in the neighbouring countries.
The writer is a farmer in Kasangombe sub county, Nakaseke District