sekitto noted, they used to get six trucks of gonja from DR Congo twice a week to supply the 200 vendors in the market
The Wednesday pact signed between President Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda that could pave way for the re-opening of the Rwanda border has excited traders in Lukayaon the Masaka-Kampala highway.
They are optimistic that the border will be opened soon.
The Lukaya market is one of the biggest stopovers where travellers buy takeaway foodstuffs such as gonja, roasted chicken and meat, cassava, maize plus refreshments.
Joseph Wasswa Ssekitto, the market administrator, said they have received few customers since the border shutdown on February 27, 2019.
He explained that in the seven months after the closure, they have incurred huge losses due to the declining sales.
"More than 40 buses plying Kampala-Kigali route, plus trucks and private cars en route Rwanda or Kampala used to stop at this town every day. He, however, says barely 5 buses were plying the Rwanda route," he says.
Before the shutdown, Ssekitto noted, they used to get six trucks of gonja from DR Congo twice a week to supply the 200 vendors in the market, adding that the trucks that used to transport it from Democratic Republic of Congo to Lukaya through Katuna, were forced to suspend operations causing, scarcity of the plantain.
Mariam Nayiga, one of the affected vendors, said a few transporters and dealers, who can manage to bring the gonja usually hike the price by over 50 percent and sometimes double it.
Normally, she added, a bunch costs between sh20,000 and sh25,000 but currently it goes for sh30,000 and above due to the scarcity.
Initially, the vendors used to sell three big pieces at sh1,000, but they reduced to two pieces to keep in the business until when the border issues are resolved.
Milly Nakintu, another affected vendor, said that they no longer save some money as it were before the Katuna closure. Nakintu used to save to at least sh10,000 on a normal day, which enabled her to pay her children's school fees, rent and other necessities.
"The profits which we would have saved are now used for purchasing the plantain whose price was hiked," she said, adding that the situation will only improve after the border reopens.
Betty Nassali said there are very few gonja growers in Greater Masaka region and across the country which makes it difficult to get the plantain when such border issues occur.
In addition, Nassali appealed to the farmers to invest in gonja growing due to its demand.
"The Katuna border issue should be an eye-opener for the local farmers to embark on growing gonja in a bid to satisfy the market," she added.
Since the differences were resolved diplomatically, Gertrude Lubowa, another gonja vendor, appealed to Rwanda to re-open the border immediately for the good of the people on either country.
Sulaiman Mayanja, who roasted chicken, said that he reduced the number of chicken due to few customers. He added that he was forced to lay off his workers in April and hopes to return him a week after the border reopens.
"I also had Rwandan nationals who had become customers. They would call me to prepare for them at least two chicken whenever they were to travel to Uganda and back home. I would make a profit of sh25,000 and more sometimes on that single order," he recounted.
Gerald Majera Ssennyondo, the Lukaya Town Council chairperson, said the managers of the market have been struggling to raise the monthly revenue worth sh410,000 amid few customers and low sales.
However, Ssennyondo explained that the situation has forced some employers to lay off workers hence rendering some youth jobless.
Museveni and Kagame held the first high-level political dialogue in Luanda, Angola on July 12 2019, which tackled regional security, co-operation and strengthening of ties.
A subsequent meeting on August 21, 2019, had the two heads of state agree to suppress the differences.