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Lockdown takes toll on seasonal grasshopper business in Masaka

Nsenene vendors say demand of the delicacy is low due to the lockdown

Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Ongoing restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus disease are hitting the seasonal grasshopper business hard.

The period between April and June is usually received with excitement in the areas of Masaka as hundreds of residents set traps for the grasshoppers in anticipation of substantial earnings from the delicacy. However, local trappers and sellers of grasshoppers in Masaka are uncertain this time around.

Abudul Kareem Kasujja, the Chairperson of Masaka Bassenene Dealers Association says that the COVID-19 lockdown has created a sharp fall in prices of grasshoppers due to low market demand as millions of Ugandans are locked down in homes. Kasujja says despite incurring heavy costs in setting up the trapping sites, they are struggling to attract the sizeable market for their catch.

According to him, a sack of grasshoppers that fetched 300,000 Shillings in normal seasons is currently selling at 100,000 Shillings or even less, yet the power tariffs and costs of other required materials have not gone down. He laments that they are currently counting heavy losses from the business.

Kasujja adds that the lockdown has complicated transport means to Kampala and other urban centres where they could get most of their customers.

Olivia Nakigudde, one of the day-time vendors of grasshoppers in Nyendo, a suburb of Masaka municipality indicates that enforcement of the lockdown guidelines are also taking a heavy toll on them. She explains despite the poor number of customers; the law enforcement officers also keep pursuing and dispersing them from their roadside stalls.

Alex Kagolo, another dealer who vends fried grasshoppers in cups along the Mbarara-Masaka bypass says that if the lockdown is not lifted anytime soon, the business will be meaningless. He explains that from selling to the many travellers in buses that ply the western the route, they now have a handful of buyers from within the region.

Kagolo adds that on top of restricting the free movement of people who would get into the stalls, the lockdown has equally drained people’s incomes and affected their purchasing power.

Meanwhile, the number of grasshopper vendors in Masaka has also drastically reduced which according to Kagolo is due to the unfavourable prevailing market conditions.

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