By Bridget Kabahenda
Tea farmers in the Rwenzori region have asked government to come up with a Tea Regulatory Authority to harmonise the operations of the tea industry.
Farmers claim that they are being cheated by the tea factories and processers who claim they cannot handle the excess tea produced. Farmers are consequently forced to sell the excess tea at lower prices to the factories and processers.
The farmers also informed the State Minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibazanga that competition in the industry has compromised the quality of the tea produced.
They said that most farmers are more concerned about fulfilling factory set quotas than the quality of tea that comes from their fields.
The zonal agricultural development officer Ali Lule said government needs to intervene more seriously in the sector to help regulate the quality and quantity of tea produced. He produced a national forum to discuss these matters.
Mabale tea factory board chairman Patrick Siisa said government needs to finally form the a regulatory authority. The attempt to form such an authority has failed to materialise since the act was proposed in 1974.
But the agriculture minister Kibazanga rejected the claim that Ugandan farmers are producing excess tea. He said that Uganda has more than enough factories to process all the tea produced in the country. Currently Uganda has 32 tea processing factories with 6 owned by small holder farmers and 27 by large companies.
Kibazanga instead charged the middle men in the tea industry with cheating farmers by claiming that the tea surplus had been artifically created. The intent being to drive down tea prices to increase profits at the expense of the farmers who grow it.
He said the tea regulatory policy remains in discussion at cabinet level.
Ministry of Agriculture has kicked off the process of geo mapping and profiling all tea farmers’ gardens to identify their production in terms of hectares using the drone system.