Soroti, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | President Yoweri Museveni has advised farmers in Teso Sub-region that growing citrus fruits is the best way to improve their household income and transform their livelihood.
The President said that the production of citrus fruits in Teso sub-region alongside fish farming and poultry keeping can transform the region if perfected by the communities. He was speaking during the much-anticipated commissioning of Soroti Fruit Factory on Saturday.
The Arapai based factory was established to mainly take advantage of the mangoes and orange fruits in Teso sub-region as a government-directed intervention aimed at supporting value addition in fruit processing in the Teso Region. The plant has the capacity to crash six tonnes of concentrates from oranges per hour and two metric tonnes of mangoes per hour. President Museveni castigated colonialists for zoning Teso region and parts of Lango for cotton growing. He said the move misled farmers into investing time and other resources on a nonprofitable venture for the region.
Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde said farmers should supplement the oranges with pineapples and mangoes in line with the government’s new strategic development plan of shifting to agro-based industrialization.
The multi-billion project is implemented through a joint venture partnership between Uganda Development Corporation-UDC and Teso Tropical Fruit Cooperative Union through a grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency-KOICA.
Under the arrangement for the establishment of the fruit factory, the government provided land, utilities, and infrastructure while KOICA pledged a grant of US USD 7.4 million for a Turnkey Factory involving the construction and machinery purchase, installation and commissioning.
Ha Byung Kyoo, the Korean ambassador to Uganda advised that smallholder farmers in Teso should be given priority to supply fruits to the factory directly so that they realize tangible income.
Earlier, farmers expressed worry that they had not been advised on the prices at which the factory will be buying their produce. Initially, the farmers had been promised by Uganda Development Corporation that their fruits shall be bought at 600 Shillings per kilogram.
Joseph Opit, a farmer from Serere district said farmers in Teso region have always suffered in the hands of middlemen who end up exploiting them by giving them little pay for their produce.
Ben Eumu, another farmer from Ngora district asked Uganda Development Corporation to come clear on the prices for the fruits. He also advised that UDC should have a contingency fund to support the factory production by purchasing some acres of land for fruit growing in Teso.
But Douglas Ndawula, the CEO of Soroti Fruits Limited said they cannot disclose the price in order to avoid unnecessary competition from other companies involved in juice processing. Ndawula is optimistic that Soroti Fruit Factory will provide a ready market for the fruits grown in the region all year round, enhance household incomes and improve livelihoods.