15 June 2017

Uganda: Kanungu Leaders Petition Museveni Over Shs18 Billion Tea Debt

Photo: Robert Muhereza/Daily Monitor
On duty. State minister for Economic Monitoring Kasirivu Baltazar Atwooki (left) and the chairperson of the tea nursery bed operators in Kigezi sub-region, Mr Frank Byaruhanga (right), inspect tea seedlings in Kisoro District recently.

Kanungu — Some residents of Kanungu District and their leaders have sought audience with President Museveni, demanding that the government clears an outstanding Shs18b debt owed to tea nursery bed operators who supplied tea seedlings to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) in 2015.

They also want government to prevail over the constant power outage they say is hurting their businesses, with factories operating on generators. The district has experienced power outage for now five months, a situation they say has disrupted their businesses.

In a meeting chaired by the Kanungu District chairperson, Ms Josephine Katsya, at Kanungu District council hall recently, religious leaders, district councillors, sub-county chairpersons, elders and area Members of Parliament unanimously resolved to petition President Museveni to have their grievances addressed.

The dean of Machuro Catholic Diocese, Fr Paulino Fokushaba, noted the urgent need for the President's intervention to streamline the tea enterprise, which he said is the backbone for the people of Kanungu.

The chairperson of the tea nursery bed operators in south western, also the district councilllor for Mpungu Sub-county, Mr Frank Byaruhanga, observed that as a result of government's failure to pay residents who supplied tea seedlings, the farmers have been disempowered.

"... tea famers have not been paid for a long period of time. Most of their seedlings have dried up in the nursery beds and several tea gardens are bushy since the farmers are financially incapacitated," he said.

However, Dr Samuel K. Mugasi, the Naads executive director, said they are ready to pay all the tea seedlings farmers in Kanungu District as long as claimants have contracts from government to supply tea seedlings to farmers after the verification exercise.

The farmers also want President Museveni to reconcile State minister for Housing, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, with other development partners in the tea enterprise, including Mr James Musinguzi Garuga, whose rivalry they claimed is crippling development in the district.

"The disagreements between Dr Chris Baryomunsi and Mr James Musinguzi Garuga, the lead agent of tea growing in the region, is crippling development in our district as it has resulted into so many court cases over the same and there is need for urgent resolution," observed Kinkiizi Diocese Bishop Dan Zoreka.

However, in a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Dr Baryomunsi dismissed the prelate's allegations as false, saying this was malicious propaganda.

Asked to comment on the stakeholders petitioning President Museveni to mediate his misunderstandings with Dr Baryomunsi, Mr Garuga, said the matter is already in court and he could, therefore, not comment about it.

The Kinkiizi West MP, Mr James Kaberuka, said he has personally petitioned the authorities at the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company over power outages and they promised to resolve the matter.

Background

Economic activity. Majority farmers in Kanungu District are involved in tea growing, planting seedlings, and picking tea leaves, which they distribute to the three tea processing factories in the district.

Market. About 300 tea nursery bed operators and tea growers supplied 40 million tea seedlings worth Shs18b procured by the district through Naads and Operation Wealth Creation. To date, farmers have not been paid.

Origin. The President launched tea growing in Kanungu District in 2008 after local leaders convinced him that it was the only enterprise that could boost their economy and he pledged commitment by his government to buy all the tea seedlings to be supplied to willing farmers at no cost.

The tea enterprise has for now rolled out to all districts of Kigezi and Ankole sub-region.

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