Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kitgum district leaders are considering the registration of all middlemen involved in the bulk purchase of agricultural produce in rural and urban centres in the district.
The planned registration, according to the leaders, seeks to protect farmers from exploitation by middlemen who buy their products cheaply and resale them at abnormally high prices.
Alex Opira, Kitgum district principal commercial officer says farmers producing especially sim-sim which has a lucrative market nationally and internationally, have been targeted by dubious middlemen over the years.
Annually, between October and January, Kitgum and the neighbouring Lamwo district, which are one of the leading producers of sim-sim in East Acholi, register a high influx of middlemen from various parts of the country.
Opira says much as the registration will help the farmers to engage with genuine produce buyers, the district too will benefit in taking stock of the number of crops sold and to which markets they are sold.
According to Opira, farmers selling sim-sim currently should desist from engaging unregistered middlemen for their own safety since some of those have been reported to be using fake weighing scales and currencies.
He however advised the farmers to undertake a collective marketing strategy by coming into groups or cooperatives to strengthen their bargaining power and minimize the risks of being individually exploited. Opira added that farmers should practice bulking their produce before looking for markets.
Kitgum Resident District Commissioner William Komakech says the lack of policies has left farmers at the mercy of unregulated middlemen. He says the majority of the middlemen approach the farmers directly from their gardens and buy sim-sim at a paltry price of 2,000 Shillings per kilogram. Currently, a kilogram of sim-sim in the district is trading between 5,000 to 6,000 Shillings at retail price due to its scarcity.
Komakech reiterated that farmers should now take the opportunity to conduct their businesses in cooperatives to boost up their bargaining power for their products.
Bruno Nelson, the Orom East sub-county chairperson says although they haven’t yet received complaints from farmers this season about being exploited, they have since issued warnings to them to be extra careful while trading their farm products.
He notes that the area produces the bulk of sim-sim grains in the district and attracts several middlemen during harvest season.