By Eddy Enuru
Citrus farmers in the Teso Sub-region have voiced their opposition to the government’s decision to privatize the Fruit Processing Factory.
These farmers, organized under the Teso Tropical Fruit Growers Cooperative (TEFGCO), have expressed their disappointment to the Teso Parliamentary group (TPG), their elected representatives.
The farmers’ discontent comes in the wake of the government’s announcement that the fruit factory would be privatized due to its inability to independently process all the fruits produced by local farmers.
During a value addition training session conducted by Opul Skilling Foundation Africa in Eneku Village, Soroti, farmers expressed their grievances.
They argued that the Teso Members of Parliament had failed to engage in extensive consultations with the affected communities, thereby neglecting the interests of the fruit factory.
The government, through the Uganda Investment Authority, invested a significant amount of money to establish the fruit processing plant in Soroti, with a loan from the Japanese government.
This investment aimed to enhance the value addition of citrus fruits grown in the region.
Jorem Opian Obicho, the chairman of the cooperative expressed his frustration with the decision to privatize the factory.
He argued that it would not provide the best solution to the current crisis faced by the juice processing plant.
In response, the farmers have submitted a silent petition to the Prime Minister’s office.
This petition outlines two key conditions including expansion the factory’s capacity to absorb fruits and allowing the factory to sell its products locally and internationally.
The farmers also propose that government becomes the primary marketer of the factory’s products and that it facilitates the sale of fresh fruits to external markets.
Joseph Asutai, the Chief Executive Officer of the Awoja River site project accused some of the local leaders of undermining President Museveni’s efforts to alleviate poverty in their communities.
Dr. Joseph Opul, the Chief Executive Officer of Opul Skilling Foundation Africa, called on Teso leaders to put aside their personal differences and focus on serving their communities, which continue to grapple with economic challenges.
The farmers’ opposition to the privatization of the fruit processing factory reflects their concerns about the future of citrus farming and the economic well-being of the region.