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Agriculture Ministry officials named in export corruption scandal

 

Uganda Farmers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables Association have petitioned to Kadaga over Agriculture Ministry officials illegally soliciting money from them for their produce. PHOTO via @RebeccaKadagaUG

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A group of farmers and exporters of fruits and vegetables have petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga demanding action against officials within the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries accused for frustrating their work and engaging in corruption tendencies.

The group, led by Micheal Owino, the chairperson of the Uganda Farmers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables Association, petitioned Kadaga during a meeting with the Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde and the Minister of State for Agriculture Bright Rwamirama.

According to the Association Coordinator Hasifah  Tushabe, the farmers and exporters complained about ungazetted export fees, absence of a clear policy in the sector and a proper chain of command, multiple phytosanitary certificates, frequent changes in export procedures and others.

Agusse Kalimba, a hot pepper farmer and exporter named Paul Mwambu, the Commissioner Crop Inspection and Certification and the Principal Assistant Inspector Jovernice Kwesiga Fokushaba, as some of the officials in the Ministry of Agriculture that continue to frustrate their work by demanding for undocumented fees.

He said that for each inspection of particular products on the farm, he is charged 600,000 Shillings by the individuals which money is not receipted.

He accused the officials of only being interested in milking money from farmers and exporters and not streamlining the sector for the good of the country.

Kalimba also revealed that to dodge the crafty people in the Ministry of Agriculture, he in the past decided to start a farm in Rwanda. However, the arrangement hit a snag when the Uganda Rwanda relationship worsened with the closure of borders.

Francis Mawesse, one of the fruit and vegetable exporters also reported that some individuals in the Ministry of Agriculture created several fees charged from them despite exemptions from the government. He said that some of the fees charged are between 1.7 million to 3 million Shillings when one is opening up a new export company, 55,000 Shillings on every shipment made and another 50,000 Shillings as facilitation for inspection.

Mawasse also noted interceptions by the Ministry of Agriculture whose formula is not known to them coupled with no clear complaint process.

Micheal Owino, the chairperson of the Uganda Farmers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables Association appealed for government support saying that most of the effort in the sector is individual-based something that prohibits them from participating in international exhibitions.

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga expressed disappointment linking the reports by farmers and exporters to an entrenched powerful cartel that is determined to frustrate the sector. She wondered how inspection of crops and produce for export can only be visual with no documentation and then certification issued verbally.

Kadaga tasked the State Minister for Agriculture Bright Rwamirama to ensure that the impunity is dealt with.

Rwamirama said that it was regrettable to hear about the development in such a key sector which is getting the country’s exports on the world market.

“This is a problem of individuals. We should be helping farmers and businessmen to keep standards. I cannot understand why someone inspects and not issue a report,” Rwamirama said.

He committed to meet the complainants on Wednesday and later brief cabinet about the matter.

Kadaga gave Rwamirama a fortnight to report back to her office saying that the matter that was urgent since there is a need to keep people affected in business.

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