Bundibugyo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local leaders in Kisuba sub county in Bundibugyo district have intensified community patrols to arrest farmers and traders involved in harvesting and selling immature cocoa.
The operation has so far seen the arrest of more than 10 farmers and traders.
They were detained briefly at Burere police post and released on police bond. Over 1000 Kgs of immature cocoa has also been impounded from farmers.
Most farmers opt to sell immature cocoa to willing buyers because of high demand. While most farmers would sell off their gardens to traders because of theft, the nationwide curfew has given them some sigh of relief.
Bundibugyo district enacted by-laws directing farmers to harvest ready cocoa between 15th and 18th and between 30th and 5th each month.
Samuel Mwesige Bonjo, the Kisuba sub county LC 3 chairperson says they have started routine patrols as local leaders following a tip off by farmers that some of their counterparts have begun harvesting immature cocoa.
He says local council chairpersons have teamed up to ensure that farmers stop comprising the quality of cocoa from the district.
Alex Kolongo, the LC 1 chairperson Burirehe-Bulyambwa in Kisuba sub county says initial efforts by local chairpersons discouraging farmers from harvesting immature cocoa had failed to yield results.
He says that they are optimistic that farmers will comply with the directives aimed at maintaining quality cocoa since they have now involved sub county heads.
Zadoki Namanaya, the manager Kagema Cocoa Store condemns farmers and buyers involved in harvesting immature cocoa, saying it doesn’t only affect cocoa prices in the district but the national and international markets.
He says Olam Uganda Limited, which buys cocoa signed contracts with farmers in the district in regards to the quality of cocoa needed.
Namanya says compromising the quality of cocoa is a big threat to the survival of the business.
Ibrahim Kawekawe, a farmer from Burirehe village agrees that his cocoa wasn’t ready for sell but says they were tempted by buyers who have been coming to them before the start of the harvesting season.
He says several farmers give in because of financial challenges.
Hamza Asaba, a re-known cocoa farmer in the district says with the increasing market for cocoa, farmers are enticed into selling because of the availability of on spot buyers.
Joseph Bbaala, another farmer says the current lock down means most farmers are constrained financially to avoid temptation from buyers.
On average, a farmer can harvest more than 3 bags from an acre of cocoa plantation. A kilogram of cocoa costs over Shillings 7500.
Uganda exports about 26,000 tons of cocoa and more than 70% of it is produced by Bundibugyo district. Over Shillings 90bn is the estimated value of cocoa that is traded in Bundibugyo annually since 2013/2014.