Farmers and factory officials

Teso farmers oppose gov’t proposal to privatize Soroti fruit factory

(Last Updated On: 16 December 2023)

Soroti | A segment of citrus growers in Teso sub-region strongly oppose the government’s plan to privatize Soroti fruit factory.

The recent proposal aims to hand over the factory to a private investor due to its failure to meet expected profit margins.

The factory’s shareholders include the Government of Uganda, which owns 80% through the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), and the Teso Tropical Fruits Cooperative Union (TEFCU), holding the remaining 20%.

Kenneth Ongalo Obote, the State Minister of Teso Affairs recently revealed that an Ethiopian-based investor is being considered for the privatization deal.

Helen Rose Amukade, a citrus farmer in Kumi voices her concerns and fears about the potential exploitation of citrus farmers in Teso by foreign private investors leading to abandonment of their citrus produce.

Genevieve Asio, another citrus farmer, opposes the government’s plan, suggesting that the focus should be on expanding the factory’s capacity to accommodate all the fruits produced in the region instead of considering privatization.

John Ariko is another farmer in Atutur sub-county, Kumi with 120 orange trees. He expresses dissatisfaction with the government’s decision and suggests a shift in focus to prioritize addressing challenges encountered by the factory, such as market access and funding as farmers like him already yield an adequate fruit supply.

John Dokole is the chairperson of the Atutur Sub-county Fruits Growers Cooperative Society Limited. He is advocating for a different approach, suggesting that instead of continuing the partnership, the government should consider selling shares to the farmers if it’s unable to sustain the collaboration.

He also urged the government to regulate middlemen who persistently exploit farmers by purchasing oranges in bulk at an unfairly low price of shs20,000 per bag.

He tasked the government with reviewing its marketing strategies for both the factory and its products, emphasizing the need for proactive measures rather than lamenting the current situation.

Francis Onapito Ekomoloit, the Board Chairperson of Soroti Fruits Factory, acknowledges that privatizing the factory isn’t necessarily negative but highlights the crucial importance of considering the fate of local farmers.

He strongly emphasizes the need to bolster the local market by encouraging communities to embrace consuming the produce, thereby boosting revenue.

Onapito underscores the necessity of strategizing the marketing approach for the factory’s products to ensure their success in the market.

Cyprian Omurangi, Vice Chairperson of Teso Tropical Fruits Cooperative Union (TEFCU), advocates for the government to grant the factory time if the goal of diversifying income and elevating household incomes across the country is to be realized.

Julius Martine Ekoom, the CEO of Soroti Fruit Limited disclosed the need for a total investment of shs180 billion to acquire the entire fruit yield from the Teso Sub-region estimated at over 400 million kilograms.

Ekoom attributes the challenges to low working capital, a constrained market and limited factory capacity to process the citrus fruits hindering the factory’s progress.

The factory in this current season has allocated shs450 million to procure 1 million kilograms of fruits across the region.

By Robert Edwomu

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