Kabale, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has discouraged small holders farmers in Kigezi sub-region from engaging in tea growing, saying it is unprofitable.
Kigezi is characterized by land fragmentation due to high population density and hilly terrain. Despite this, local leaders have been encouraging every household to grow tea.
For long, Kigezi region didn’t have any significant cash crop until 2008 when the government introduced tea growing through the National Agriculture Advisory Services-NAADS program. However, the Agriculture Minister, Frank Tumwebaze, says that tea growing is unprofitable for small holder farmers.
He told URN that the ministry is aware how many households in Kigezi especially Kanungu district own between 0.2-0.8 meters of land. According to Tumwebaze, such a small piece of land cannot allow the farmers to reap from their investment.
He says that only a few farmers and some institutions like churches with bigger chunks of land can engage in tea farming productively. Tumwebaze has advised small holder farmers to growing highly profitable crops like Irish potatoes, onions and tomatoes among others.
However, Samuel Mugasi, the Executive Director for National Agriculture Advisory Services,, says that the Minister’s advice shouldn’t overshadow the big economic impact the tea has had on Uganda’s economy.
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According to Mugasi, Uganda’s tea exports have increased from 50 million kilograms per annum to 80 million kilograms per annum since 2008. He also says that Uganda’s earnings from tea exports have increased from US$ 50 million to US$ 90Million per annum since 2008.
In Africa, Uganda is the third leading producer and exporter of tea (45,000 metric tons) after Kenya (295,000 metric tons) and Malawi (55,000 metric tons). The tea produced in Uganda is of a medium quality primarily used in blends with premium quality teas, such as those from Kenya, according to Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO).