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Court Orders Gov’t to Compensate Tea Farmers More Than Shs60bn

The Commercial Court Building in Kampala

The High Court Commercial Division in Kampala has ruled in favor of tea nursery operators from ten districts, ordering the government to compensate them with more than Shillings 60 billion for their tea seedlings.

This decision was handed down by Justice Harriet Grace Magala following an unsuccessful appeal by the government against the tea operators.

The operators named in the case include Frank Byaruhanga, Dr. Francis Runumi, George Owakukiroru, Tumwesimira Caleb Kipande, Arineitwe Sam Kajolo, Julius Tumushabe, Kanyamunyu Julius, and Rev. Bernard Byamugisha. In 2019, these farmers filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), seeking compensation for tea seedlings that perished in their nursery beds due to the government’s failure to honor a guarantee demand issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries.

Following negotiations out of court, both the farmers and respondents reached a consent judgment endorsed by the Court Registrar on January 8th, 2021.

As per the consent judgment, it was recognized that the number of tea seedlings estimated to have been planted in the specified districts amounted to 106,640,606, valued at Shillings 42,656,242,400. Of this, Shillings 8,237,098,116 had already been paid to eligible nursery bed operators, and NAADS committed Shillings 7,118,326,249 for payment.

The outstanding balance of Shillings 27,300,818,035 was agreed to be paid in phases, with 20% interest to be applied.

Additionally, 40% of the total value of the tea seedlings that the Government was unable to procure would be paid after a joint verification exercise by both parties.

Subsequently, the farmers sought execution of the consent judgment and taxed bill of costs before the Court Registrar, who ordered respondents to pay them Shillings 61 billion-plus 20% interest.

Upon appeal by NAADS and the Attorney General, Justice Harriet Grace Magala dismissed their appeal and upheld the order for the government to pay over Shillings 60 billion to the farmers. However, she reduced the interest to 10 percent, noting that the agreed-upon interest was indeed 10 percent, not 20 percent.

The judge emphasized that once a consent judgment is endorsed by the court, it becomes a full and final settlement of the dispute and cannot be altered without due process.

-URN

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