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Hoima halts verification of tobacco farmers over COVID-19

Tobacco farmers. Courtesy photo

Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hoima district local government has suspended the ongoing verification of more than 1,300 tobacco farmers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, President Yoweri Museveni promised to compensate more than 1,300 tobacco farmers after tobacco buying companies failed to meet their contractual obligation to pay them.

The affected companies include Continental tobacco and Tropical Leaf Company among others. The farmers are demanding over Shillings 2 billion. The President directed the Ministries of trade and Industries and that of Finance to expedite the compensation of the affected farmers.

In March this year, the President instructed Hoima district authorities to form a verification committee to verify the farmers for payment by his office. The most affected farmers are from of Kigorobya, Kitoba, Buhanika, Bombo, Kapapi, Buseruka and Kyabigambire sub counties.

Godfrey Komakech, the Hoima District Production and Marketing Secretary who is also a member of the verification committee told Uganda Radio Network on Wednesday that they have suspended the verification exercise because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He however, says they had covered 80 percent of the farmers by the time of the suspension.

He revealed that during the verification exercise only those with genuine documentary evidence in form of receipts were considered for payments by the office of the president. In January 2019, the Trade Ministry halted the operations of the three tobacco companies in Hoima district for alleged failure to pay farmers over 2 Billion Shillings for tobacco they supplied between July and December 2018.

In his January 17th, 2019 letter, the late Julius B, Onen, the former Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary, said three companies had been stopped from transacting any tobacco-related business in Hoima district until they pay all the farmers.

Through the same letter, the ministry issued operational licenses to Alliance One Uganda Tobacco Company, Global Leaf Holdings, Meridian Tobacco Company and Uganda Tobacco Service to transact business in Hoima district.

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