ISINGIRO– Farmers in Isingiro district who grow Matooke are decrying low prices of their products. The farmers attributed the drastic fall in prices to the ban on inter-district travel and lockdown at large.
Farmers argue that when the lockdown started, most buyers decided to stay home and a few make it to places which are not far from them. The government early last month imposed the restrictions in a bid to contain the surging cases of corona virus in the country.
Kellen Namara, a farmer in Isingiro district, said that a bunch of matooke that was previously costing shillings 7000, is now at shillings 1000 and a sack of bananas that was at shillings 30,000 and it is now at shillings 10,000, if you are lucky to get buyers.
“The prices have dropped so much this time round. We have been experiencing such price challenges but this time is the worst one. It has come at a time when the country is being hit hard by the pandemic”. She said.
Namara further hinted on the poor roads in areas of Bukanga constituency and other surrounding areas. She said this has also hindered their market since most buyers fear to go that side because of poor roads.
The other common and principal areas of matooke production in Uganda include Masaka, Rakai, Bushenyi, Mbarara, and Ntugamo districts, which are currently not doing well as well, an indication that matooke farmers generally are suffering.
Farmers say that away from poor prices, they have previously been affected by a number of banana diseases which reduced the food production country wide.
Musa Kintu a farmer from Ngarama sub county, said that majority of residents depend on farming, majorly banana plantations and cattle keeping. He adds that like cattle which are always hit hard by foot and mouth diseases-FMD, bananas have also been hit by a number of diseases.
“Matooke is susceptible to diseases including banana bunchy top virus, black sigatoka, cordana musae, cordana johnstonii, and cylindrocarpon musaue.” adds Kintu.
James Kamugira, a farmer who harvests over 11,000 bunches of bananas every two weeks and employs 20 workers, asserts that if the low prices persist, a number of farmers shall quit growing the bananas.
“I have been farming for many years but have reached a level of failing because the prices of bananas have reduced so much. If it persists like this then it means that we are going to get away from farming,” he said.
However, some members noted that, the drop in prices is simply a result of market forces. Moses Arineitwe told this writer that people have grown bananas on a large scale meaning that the supply is high and demand is low.
Arineitwe further noted that this surplus production, coupled with competition from other food commodities on the local, has resulted in low prices for bananas.
Abdul Muganga, a matooke seller told this writer that Isingiro is one of the places where bananas are produced in large quantities, but he no longer goes there to buy them because of the lock down. He says that matooke is now common, so farmers stop in nearby districts like Mbarara and end up going back.
Farmers have resorted to feeding their animals on matooke; some give it to vulnerable families like refugees of Nakivale, a biggest refugee camp in Bukanga County.
H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of republic of Uganda, previously encouraged farmers in Uganda to always think about how they can add value to their products. He said that value addition has helped many in times like these when the business is experiencing a number of challenges, adding that the local processing facilities are inadequate to absorb the available supply.
Some districts like Bushenyi have started embracing Presidents initiative of adding value to the produces. The banana factory is in Nyaruzinga Bushenyi which sources say that it produces very little compared to the amount of matooke they have in the region. In a week, the whole regional banana factory processes only one lorry.