Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several farmers in Kitgum and Lamwo districts are counting loses from sales of sim sim following a sharp drop in prices this season.
Local leaders in the two districts which are known to produce bulk sim sim in the region attribute the low prices to exploitation by middlemen from central region and Lira district who have invaded the area.
Joachin Opoka Ocan, the Lokung sub-county LCIII chairperson says farmers in his area are being cheated adding that they are selling a kilogram of sim sim cheaply between shillings 3,300 and 3,500 shillings.
He says most of the farmers are followed to their farms and homesteads by the middlemen where they are vulnerable to negotiate prices for their harvests.
Ocan says as opposed to the cheap prices offered by the middlemen, farmers should have been selling their sim sim at Shillings 4,000 if they are to earn profits.
He notes that despite outcry from farmers who are affected by the low prices, helping them has also become difficult since many are selling their goods in bulk to get cash for celebrating christmas.
Joseph Akena, the secretary for production in Lokung sub-county and also a farmer says he had to sell two bags of his sim sim at only 3,500 shillings per kilogram last month after failing to get buyers offering higher prices.
Akena says increasing cases of exploitation by middlemen in the area has prompted leaders in the sub-county to ban traders from buying produces directly in farms.
He says those intending to buy sim sim are only allowed to buy from stores were farmers have protection against exploitation and use of counterfeit currency.
In Lokung sub county, middlemen are exploiting farmers in Ngomoromo at the Uganda-South Sudan border and Pangira trading centre were about 10,000 farmers planted sim sim this year according to Akena.
Kenneth Nyero Nyok-cek, the LCV councillor Namokora sub-county, however, blames the current fluctuating prices on failure by the district commercial department to ensure the farmers enjoy protection from exploitation.
He says the district commercial department should have ensured establishment of a strong cooperative association in all the sub-counties to ensure farmers come together and have a voice-over process of what they produce.
Nyok-cek says this has given the opportunity to middlemen buying in bulk on behalf of big companies to set their own prices for farmers who used their own capital to produce the sim sim.
He also blamed the non-intervention of East Acholi Cooperative Union Ltd over the continuous price exploitation that has now been on-going for the past two years.
Efforts to get comments from Morris Atwom, the Kitgum district commercial officer were futile as he didn’t answer repeated phone calls on his known mobile phone number.
Sim sim farmers also made loses this year due to heavy rain that devastated many farmlands in the two districts.
In open markets within Kitgum Municipality, retail prices for sim sim ranges 3,700 to 4,000 shillings.