Uganda's tea growers seek alternatives as international prices plunge

Business

A wave of tea growers in Tooro Sub-Region is abandoning the tea trade in favour of other crops, such as maize and beans, due to the persistent drop in Uganda's tea prices on the international market.

The declining international prices have had a ripple effect on the farm gate prices of tea leaves, prompting farmers to explore alternative agricultural ventures.

Nabasa George William, a long-time resident of Nyakagongo village in Kyembogo sub-county, Kyenjojo district, made a tough decision to shift from the tea business, which had supported his family for over a decade.

The plummeting green leaf prices, dropping from 500 to 200 shillings per kilogram, prompted him to uproot his tea plants and embrace maize cultivation.

Nabasa's story is not an isolated case, as Agaba Ponsiano, facing similar challenges, has transitioned to bean farming. James Tumuranze, too, was found busy uprooting his tea plants in pursuit of new agricultural prospects.

The drop in Uganda's processed tea price on the international market is a significant concern, falling to USD 0.66 per kilogram, which translates to approximately 2442 shillings. This represents a stark decline from USD 1.46 at the end of 2022, considerably affecting farm gate prices of tea leaves, now trading as low as 200 shillings per kilogram.

Experts attribute the price slump to the perceived poor quality of Ugandan tea and the absence of a comprehensive tea policy. Gilbert Rubaihayo, the district chairperson of Kyenjojo, acknowledges these issues and confirms that the government is taking steps to address the concerns of tea farmers to safeguard the local economy.

Rubaihayo has urged farmers not to uproot their tea plantations, assuring them that the situation will eventually normalize.

Tooro, a key tea-growing region, contributes approximately 40% of Uganda's tea exports. However, the exodus of tea growers from the trade raises concerns about potential unemployment among the youth and the broader impact on the local economy.

The evolving landscape of Uganda's tea industry underscores the need for comprehensive strategies to address pricing fluctuations and maintain the livelihoods of tea farmers in the region.

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