Bundibugyo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Cocoa farmers in Bundibugyo district are concerned about the significant decline in production.
The decline according to farmers is due to the impact of climate change, theft, and use of bad agrochemicals. Bundibugyo is the leading cocoa producer in Uganda. Cocoa is harvested twice a month throughout the year, with the high seasons being September to February and March to August. This offers the farmers a steady stream of income from January to December.
Today, many Ugandan cocoa dealers have set up collection points within the DRC from where they buy cocoa and import it into Uganda for re-export.
Francis Agobe, the Assistant Manager at Esco Uganda Limited, a company that procures and exports cocoa and vanilla says the district has registered low production for the last three years and the company’s purchase capacity has reduced to more than 20%.
He attributes the fall to pests and diseases, theft, and the old age of the cocoa trees.
Agobe says there is a need to rejuvenate the cocoa trees scientifically but also help farmers attain better agronomic skills.
Robert Walugembe a cocoa buyer says because of the low production, some big buyers are afraid to come into the district because it will not be cost-effective and thus prefer to give their money to small retailers to buy on their behalf.
He also says that in the two years of the lockdown, many farmers lacked resources to maintain their gardens while others completely gave up. He adds that his purchasing has reduced to near 30% compared to the last four or five years.
Sadress Kabugho a cocoa farmer says her fortunes have over the last one year gone down after cocoa pod borer infested her garden. She also attributes the low production to thugs who invade their gardens as they get towards the harvesting schedule. Last season she lost all her produce to thieves.
Geoffrey Masereka, another leading farmer in the district who has been in the cocoa business since the 1970s said his farm has been facing the problem of pests for about six years now, which has led to a steady decline in yields.
His production has gone down to more than 100 bags in the last four seasons.
The LCV Chairperson Robert Tibakunirwa says the decline in production has significantly affected household incomes in the district where households majorly depend on cocoa.
According to data from Uganda Export Promotion Board, Uganda exports more than 30,000 tons of cocoa beans per year.