A section of lawmakers have protested the failure by the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to provide for Shs42bn for the payment of coffee nursery operators who supplied seedlings to Government, saying the move is going to sink these farmers into economic ruin because many borrowed money to boost their businesses.
The protest was led by Abed Bwanika (Kimanya-Kabonero) during the plenary sitting to consider the Appropriation Bill 2023 that contained the estimates for the 2023/2024 national budget.
Bwanika said, “In this Parliament, we passed a resolution, that the Ministry of Finance will provide for money for coffee seedlings to the nursery bed operators. The amount of money is Shs42bn, and I don’t see any provision for it in this budget. The nursery bed operators borrowed money from the banks, they’re taking their properties. There is zero money.”
Bwanika’s remarks were in reference to a pronouncement made by Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija recently who revealed that Cabinet had agreed to purchase coffee seedlings from farmers on credit and pay farmers later, after initially scaling back on the purchase due to lack of funds.
Bwanika also protested the dismal allocation to the agriculture sector, that received Shs1.7Trn in the whole of the Shs52.7Trn budget.
He said, “I largely represents farmers and most of our people are farmers but agriculture has been given less than 3% of the budget.”
The pronouncement followed similar complaints from MPs who raised concern over the failure by Government to avail funds to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to purchase seedlings from the farmers who at the time were stuck with 8 million seedlings.
Deputy Speaker informed Parliament that he had a discussion with the Minister of Agriculture who informed him that the President and Cabinet had resolved that nursery bed operators can distribute the seedlings and be paid later but he was awaiting for a letter from Ministry of Finance authorizing him to commit government.
Earlier on, a group of Coffee Nursery operators across the country revealed that they were stuck with over 100 million seedlings worth Shs71bn and asked Government to allow them to distribute the overgrown seedlings to coffee farmers and have their money paid later.
The operators argued that their plight had been worsened by the failure by the Ministry of Finance to release the Shs18bn that had been allocated for the purchase seedlings this financial year.
The development comes at the time the April 2023 monthly report on Coffee exports by UCDA highlighted that Uganda earned US$ 59.99 million equivalent to Shs224.494Bn worth 373,610 bags of coffee.
The exported coffee comprised 238,636 bags of Robusta valued at US $31.50 million (Shs117.879Bn) and 134,974 bags of Arabica valued at US$ 28.49 million (Shs106.615Bn).
According to UCDA, the destinations of Uganda’s coffee saw Italy maintain the highest market share with 26.66%, followed by Germany 19.27%, India 12.60%, Sudan 10.59% and U.S.A 5.78%.
Coffee exports to Africa amounted to 51,418 bags, a market share of 14% and the African countries that imported Uganda coffee included Sudan, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Kenya.