Uganda: Over 700 Kigezi Tea Nursery Bed Operators Petition Museveni

Workers plucking tea from plants growing on a hillside.

More than 700 tea nursery bed operators in Kigezi Sub-region have asked President Museveni to prevail over a matter in which they are seeking payment for tea seedlings worth Shs143 billion.

The operators claim they supplied government the imputs between 2014 and 2017.

In a July 10 petition signed by the chairperson of South Western Uganda Tea Nursery Bed Operators, Mr Frank Byaruhanga, they indicate that they were contracted by government to supply the tea seedlings to farmers but no payment was done to that effect.

The farmers have now petitioned the President's office to accord them audience.

Mr Byaruhanga added that more than 280,000 casual workers, who were previously hired to work in the different tea nursery beds, are now threatening to drag their former employers to court over non-payment of wages.

"Due to our frustration, we filed a court case against the government over non-payment in October 2018. We have spent about Shs250m in court and legal fees. Our effort to dialogue with President Museveni for an amicable solution over the matter has been blocked by some selfish individuals..." he said.

President Museveni launched tea growing in Kigezi in 2008 and promised that government would buy all the tea seedlings and supply them to farmers.

Mr Byaruhanga said tea processing factories have been built and earnings from green leafs have increased from Shs11b in 2008 to Shs55b in 2019. He said new tea processing factories at Kitumba in Kabale District, Nyakabande in Kisoro District, at Rugyeyo, Bwindi, Kayonza expansion, and Mpungu in Kanungu District are earning government revenue.

The chairperson of Kabale District Nursery Bed Operators Association, Mr Philip Zikampereza, said the booming tea enterprise was allegedly used as a campaign tool for President Museveni in 2016.

Kanungu Resident District Commissioner Shafique Ssekandi said the nursery bed operators should be patient because President Museveni is aware of their troubles.

"Last year in December, selected tea nursery bed operators met President Museveni in Rwakitura where he promised to resolve the matter of unpaid tea seedlings," he said.

However in January, nursery bed operators from the districts of Kabale, Kisoro, Kanungu, Rubanda, Rukiga, Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Mbarara, Kamwenge and Mitooma, demanded to meet Mr Museveni to resolve the standoff with government.

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