The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, has said that the government will not provide funds for coffee and tea seedlings in the next financial year.
Kasaija said the move has been triggered by the revenue short falls arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the economy.
“At the beginning of this financial year, the economy was recovering from the effects of Covid-19. This resulted in short falls in revenue collections and budget cuts for the government to accommodate various needs and expenditures,” Kasaija said.
He said the government will however, use the Parish Development Model (PDM) funds to extend agricultural inputs including coffee seedlings to farmers.
“Operationalisation of PDM will ensure access to a number of wealth creation funds including funds for coffee and coffee seedlings amounting to Shs 44.6 billion and Shs 32 billion respectively,” Kasaija told MPs.
MPs said this was betrayal to farmers who have been accustomed to supplying seedlings to the government and those who have been receiving seedlings from the government.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, wondered how the strategy would work.
“We have people who have seedlings in nursery beds, and they know the government has been buying these seedlings every year. You also have farmers whose gardens are ready and they are used to receiving seedlings. Now you wake up all of a sudden and say people are going to buy seedlings under the PDM which you have not sent,” Tayebwa said.
Tayebwa said that Parliament has received petitions from coffee farmers about the inadequate funding to the sector in the current financial year.
Kasaija revealed that only 87 per cent of the approved budget for Uganda Coffee Development Authority was released.
“We are requesting that you release 100 per cent of the money for coffee seedlings; it was not among the money frozen by the government. We need to know if all the money for National Agriculture Advisory Services has been utilised,” Tayebwa said.
Legislators requested Kasaija to allow nursery bed operators whose seedlings have matured to sell to farmers and get a refund from the government.
The chairperson of the committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Janet Okori Moe, said coffee trees in the Elgon and Rwenzori regions need to be replaced but expressed fears that there will be no replacements if the government suspends funding to the sector.