Kampala — THE National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) has secured 600,000 pineapple suckers to be distributed to 60 farmers in Kayunga district.
The enterprise development officer, Florence Kabugo, said each beneficiary will also be supported with two trucks of coffee husks to be applied in the pineapple gardens this financial year.
"The secretariat is impressed by the agricultural practices of the pineapple farmers in Kayunga.
It is so far one of the model districts we have in the country," said Kabugo.
She said the secretariat started a special intervention in the district in 2004, when it identified and gave out 200,000 pineapple suckers and coffee husks to 20 farmers in the district.
"I am really happy that farmers who received the pineapple suckers planted them and have started earning money," said Kabugo.
Kabugo together with Moses Byaruhanga, President Yoweri Museveni's political assistant, Rose Najjemba-Gomba county Mp, Faridah Najjuma-woman Mp Mubende district and Sarah Nyombi, Ntenjeru North MP were touring the 20 farmers in the district.
The donation, according to Kabugo, was a special intervention from the secretariat before the NAADS programme launched its activities in the district.
Kayunga started implementing the NAADS programme in 2006/2007 financial year.
Joseph Kizito, one of the lead farmers in Busana sub-county said after receiving the 20,000 pineapple suckers, moved a step further and bought an additional 80,000 suckers which he planted on 10 acres of land.
By the time of our visit, he had started harvesting his pineapples and he sales each at a cost of sh1,200 to sh1,500. He hopes to earn sh90m from the 10 acres for the next four to five years.
Kabugo said Kayunga had proved to be the highest concentration of pineapples in the country with about 95% of the homes growing pineapples commercially.
Kangulumira trading centre, Kabugo said had established it's self as a hub of pineapple trade between December and February every year.
According to the Kayunga district NAADS coordinator, Dr. Ali Lule, the district has an average of 3,000 farmers engaged in pineapple growing.
The farmers, Lule said had an average of five acres of land each dedicated for pineapple growing. This means the district has 15,000 acres of land under pineapple cultivation.
He, however, said the major challenge the farmers were facing was the continued lack of coffee husks, as there were few farmers engaged in coffee cultivation in the district.
"When coffee wilt disease broke out, many farmers turned to pineapple cultivation, so it is very difficult to get the coffee husks needed by all the farmers in the district," explained Lule.
Byaruhanga, said when he first toured Kayunga district, he found out that majority of the farmers were engaged in passion fruit growing.
"When I consulted the NAADS secretariat, they informed me that Kayuga was better suited for pineapple growing, that is why a special intervention was done," explained Byaruhanga.
He said the secretariat used sh30m to support the 20 farmers and was not surprised that the funds had been put to proper use.
"The sh30m we used to purchase the suckers and coffee husks is visible, next time when we come back we shall be looking out for what the district has used the rest of the funds it receives from the government," said Byaruhanga.
Moses Kiwana the chairperson of Kiwana Rural Development Association said farmers had picked interest in pineapple growing because of the by-laws they had drafted at the sub-county levels.
He said in Busana, they had resolved that any body caught with stolen pineapples to be imprisoned for three years.
Kabugo also informed the farmers that the budget for the sub-counties under the NAADS programme had increased from sh86m to sh120m this financial year.
She however noticed that though NAADS programme was engaged in promotion of the pineapple enterprise, there is no value addition to the crop, something needed to push the farmers to the next level.
Instead, 95% of the pineapples are sold unprocessed to traders in Uganda, DRC, Sudan, Kenya and Rwanda.
"We produce enough fruits, especially pineapples that can be turned into juice and wines but do not have the means to do so effectively," said Kizito.
A few years ago, a small juice producing plant was set up with assistance from the Japanese on the outskirts of Kangulumira.
However, it now has some key components missing. "For example, it has no juice extractor. Which means that farmers have to extract juice from the pineapples using their hands and this is difficult," Kizito says.
The purpose of the factory was partly to show farmers in the area how cheaply they could add value to pineapples. At the moment, the factory produces juice and wines but poor packaging affects their promotion.