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Wednesday,August 12,2020 07:26 AM

What farmers expect from the budget

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th June 2011 03:00 AM

BUDGET day is tomorrow. Since agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, and in view of the prevailing high food prices, farmers expect to feature prominently in new finance minister Maria Kiwanuka’s budget.

BUDGET day is tomorrow. Since agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, and in view of the prevailing high food prices, farmers expect to feature prominently in new finance minister Maria Kiwanuka’s budget.

BY PROSSY NANDUDU

BUDGET day is tomorrow. Since agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, and in view of the prevailing high food prices, farmers expect to feature prominently in new finance minister Maria Kiwanuka’s budget.

Harvest Money talked to farmers from different parts of the country, and below are some of their expectations from the budget.

“I expect a budget that puts into consideration small farmers like me,” says Christopher Kibuuka, a small scale farmer in Buwama.

Kibuuka has three pigs, an acre of maize, an acre of bananas and several local chicken. It is from earnings here that he looks after his family. He, like most farmers, wants to get access to farm inputs like improved seeds and fertilisers and have a good market for his produce.

When the 2010/2011 budget was read, National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) had just been restructured. Under the new arrangement, the programme was meant to benefit at least 100 farmers from each parish. Previously, it was six farmers per parish.

In tomorrow’s budget, NAADS is likely to increase the number of farmers to benefit from its programmes. Kibuuka’s wish is this time round he will be among the lucky farmers to benefit from NAADS programmes.

In case he is lucky to be included on the NAADS programme, Kibuuka’s priority is to get fertilisers to improve his soils which are unproductive because he has been using them for a long time. He also hopes to get some herbicides to get rid of the weeds that are chocking his crops.

“The agricultural sector should be allocated more money. 10%-20% of the budget should be allocated to the sector since more than 75% of Ugandans depend on farming. If well utilised, this money would definitely make a big difference in the entire economy, not just the agriculture sector,” says Steven Mutebi, a poultry farmer in Luwero.

Last year, money allocated to the agriculture sector increased from sh310.7b to sh344.1b this year (2010/2011).

Besides inadequate funding, farmers will face a number of challenges in the coming financial year. These include increased pressure on land as a result of the growing population, climatic changes which are causing long drought and destructive rains.

“Climatic conditions are becoming unpredictable,” says Ssebatta Mukasa, a farmer in Masaka. “We can no longer tell with certainty when the rains will come, or stop.”

Farmers also want the budget to make it easier for them to access agricultural loans.

“I need a loan to buy two ox-ploughs, and now that a loan facility has been set up to cater for farmers, I think my dream will soon come true,” says Zacharias Onyango, a farmer from the eastern region.

Last year’s budget provided sh60b specifically for lending to farmers to acquire agro-processing machinery and other farm equipment such as tractors, cereals and cassava graters.

However, farmers are finding it extremely difficult to access that money. “This year round, we do no t just want to stop at just hearing about the money in the budget, but we must be able to access it,” Onyango says.

Farmers have been advised to add value to their products to increase their earnings. However, just advising them to add value to their products is not sufficient. Farmers need support to access knowledge and other resources that will enable them add value to their products.

“Our juice factory is useless without a juice extractor,” says William Kibodhe, a fruit farmer in Kayunga. Kibodhe grows pineapples and a variety of other fruit on over 30 acres of land. He processes some of the fruits into juice on a small scale. Although there is a fruit juice plant in his area, it is not functioning because they lack a juice extractor. This has turned the multi-million fruit factory into a white elephant. Farmers in the area are praying that tomorrow’s budget will include money to buy the missing component.

After witnessing the failure of several multi-million factories set up by the Government to help farmers add value to their products, a number of farmers are advocating for individual loans to set up small scale processing plants in their homes. They believe these will be more sustainable, and better managed.

These include dairy farmers in the cattle corridor, and crop farmers who want to process crops like cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes into flour, chips and snacks. These need less than sh5m each to set up a cottage industry in their homes.

“Stop simply talking about mechanisation of agriculture and instead buy the tractors,” says Erasmus Muyinda, a farmer in Mukono.

Improving access to tractors would certainly be wonderful news for farmers. At the moment, farmers who want to use tractors have to pay a lot of money.

“To hire a tractor, a farmer needs sh120,000 per acre,” says Margaret Namusolwe, a farmer in Sironko. She says if she can hire it at a government subsidised fee, then her cereals would perform better. At the moment, there are less than 1,000 heavy duty tractors across the country, compared to an estimated need of around 3,000. Ideally, according to agriculturists, every sub-county must have atleast three tractors.

Further interventions like improving markets for produce and further technology development at the sub-county levels, will make the Ugandan farmer more competitive. Whether the budget deals with these issues remains to be seen, but that is the wish of the farmers.

What farmers expect from the budget

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