In the last two years that Uganda has registered a bumper harvest of maize followed by low prices on the market, farmers in mid western Uganda are shifting to sugarcane growing as a way of making ends meet.
It should be remembered that Frederick Ngobi Gume, the State Minister for Cooperatives, advised farmers to form groups and sell their maize in an association rather than do so individually. This shields them against exploitative middlemen, he said.
“We are encouraging these farmers to embrace the warehouse receipt system. This is where they take all their produce to a warehouse and are given a receipt. This receipt becomes their collateral and can be taken to a micro-finance lending institution or village saving scheme and borrow money which can take them through another production chain without financial stresses,” he says.
The minister said farmers shun the warehouse receipt system because they fear to go through the entire maize production chain without money. So, they end up selling off their maize to middlemen at flowering stage.
“We tend to leave farmers to go through the production chain without help and many get financially exhausted along the way. When they run to the middle man, he dictates the price and the farmers end up toiling for nothing,” he says.
He added that government had partnered with some private warehouse owners for example in Jinja so farmers can take their maize there and wait till the prices are fairer.
“We have also partnered with the Grain Council of Uganda which has built silos in some parts of the country so farmers can store their maize there. The council can be able to purchase the grain, grade it and export at a much better price hence benefiting the farmers,” he said. “I would like to encourage farmers to embrace value addition. Through cooperatives, farmers can add value to their maize such that they don’t export grain. They should endeavour to turn their grain into flour because this fetches a reasonably higher price. This even gives them advantage to make animal feeds that fetch them an extra income,” he advises.
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