Rice prices have more than doubled in the past few months. This is in no small part due to nationwide shortages caused by the government’s ban on rice cultivation in wetlands.
The ban follows years of uncontrolled encroachment, with farmers draining entire wetlands to grow more rice. The damage was so severe that 30 percent of the country’s wetlands disappeared in 23 years.
The government said it had little choice but to order the eviction of farmers from the wetlands that dot the Busoga and Bukhedi subregions. The price paid to preserve what remains of a significant part of the country’s environment and sensitive ecosystems, and to begin the slow regeneration of the affected wetlands, is a significant increase in domestic rice production. Decrease.
A price hike soon followed. Rice imports, mainly from Tanzania, have failed to bring in sufficient quantities to make up the shortfall, and even a small amount of locally grown and imported rice now trades at premium prices. It is
Recently, rice farmers, exporters and millers petitioned the speaker of parliament to stop the government from removing rice farmers from wetlands in favor of foreign investors.
Isaac Kashaija, president of the American Business Sector Association (RBSAL), said local farmers were in a desperate situation.
Simon Peter Bumba, a rice farmer in the Budaka district, said the ban had wide-ranging effects, including “children dropping out of school due to lack of money.”
He added: “Cultivating rice in wetlands [the] If the government thinks we are not doing it right, we need to be taught modern best practices in rice farming. ”
This reporter visited some of the traditional rice growing areas of the Butareja and Budaka districts to see how the business has flourished, if not boomed, in recent times.
At Namporogoma Trading Center in Majimasa District, Butareja District, most of the flour mills were closed due to lack of rice to be milled. The same is true next door to the Parisa district.
Some are said to have laid off most of their workers to cut costs, while others simply closed their factories due to low production capacity.
“Thousands of farmers have been displaced from their fields,” said rice trader Simon Peter Barikova. They are forced to lay off workers,” he said, adding: “I employ about 80 people, both those who operate the rice sorting machines and others.” During packing, loading and unloading. But I was forced to stay with only his 30 employees. ”
Before the ban, Ugandan farmers produced at least 160,000 tonnes of rice from lowlands (wetlands) and 68,000 tonnes from highlands, Kashaija said.
The annual demand for rice in Uganda is now around 380,000 tonnes, said RBSAL chairman. No wonder the price of premium rice (known locally as super) currently averages 6,500 shillings per kilogram.
But low production volumes aren’t the only reason for high prices. There are also tax complaints. According to RBSAL, over time he has established over 6,000 small rice mills in the rice trade nationwide. The income of more than 400,000 farmers has been guaranteed and increased.
In a report, RBSAL noted that Uganda has developed a 10-year strategic plan (2008-2018) to triple its raw rice production from 177,000 to 680,000 tonnes. showing. A ban may stop that dream from coming true.
The report notes that upland rice cultivation has accelerated the transformation in northern Uganda, increasing the area under cultivation from 5,000 to 65,000 hectares between 2004 and 2014.
In June 2014, a value-added tax was introduced on domestically produced rice, but imported products were exempted. This affected local millers and farmers. Rice production stagnated as imports rose from the 2011 average of 56,421 tons to 98,981 tons.
“The essence of such international or regional trade is knowing where to turn when local stocks run out,” researcher Stephen Masiga told Newsweek, referring to Uganda. expressed regret that some of its intermediaries were colluding. Make home rice more expensive by hoarding and doubling the price.
Ideally, rice farmers should be content with rising prices, according to community development expert David Murabi. But they don’t always get the unexpected benefits that come from forced shortages.
“Unfortunately, farmers will not benefit from this price increase,” he said. “Farmers get half of this price. [of business]”
Mr. Murabi, himself a rice producer in Butareja, proposed that the government “allow farmers direct access to the market without middlemen.” This will increase farmers’ income while also allowing them to “increase investment in agricultural inputs, capital equipment, processing, packaging, distribution, etc.”, he added.
Furthermore, he said: “I don’t think rice production has stopped in the East. suggested that they would be exempt from
As Murabi admits, climate change has not solved the problem. Rice production has been affected to such an extent that agribusiness consultant James Wyer admits that Uganda is now a net importer of starchy cereals.
“[Tanzania] Transformed the entire value chain of the US subsector. From production to processing to market access,” said Wyer. “In Uganda, the rice subsector still operates in a patchwork fashion, from farmers to consumers.”
He said there are private farmers in Uganda who grow whatever variety they want and irresponsibly dry the rice after harvesting. He further explained that Tanzania’s well-developed system of collective production, processing and marketing works well.
Elsewhere, the discriminatory and unfair taxation of rice importers by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has also been cited as a factor affecting production. Kashaija said 57 out of 73 rice companies in Uganda have been forced out of business due to unfavorable taxation. He cited the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act 2014, which stipulates an 18% VAT on imported white rice, but said some companies were exempt.
Isa Hasahiya, a rice grower in Mbale, also said the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) has forced small farmers to vacate despite the government allocating 16,000 hectares of wetlands to select rice companies. expressed concern that
The above concerns are affecting agricultural enterprises, with mixed reviews in the east. For most small farmers, this is a daunting task, but historically, the results have been disproportionate to the effort.
Mainly one variety of Kaiso rice is grown, but due to low yields and poor post-harvest treatment, the rice grown here cannot compete with imported rice from countries such as Tanzania.
The average price of a kilogram of kaiso at Butareja farm prices is 2,000 shillings. At retail, a kilogram doubles that amount.
A vendor in neighboring Kenya sells rice husks for just 3,000 shillings a bag. The husks are then processed into animal feed and returned to the district at 6,000 shillings per kilogram.
Grassroots are not profiting because of poor post-harvest treatment and inadequate value-adding capacity.
Rice farmer Madina Namdila says she continues to be exploited because her crops may not even be able to be stored for long periods when pressing problems arise.
“We take loans from banks and businessmen, but when we pay them back, we get paid as low as 1,500 shillings per kilo.”
Rice trader Fredrik Okello complains of a lack of space to dry the rice and enough storage.
“We don’t have a tarp to dry the rice. We don’t have anyone to help us start branding the rice for a good market,” Okello said.
“Each farmer sells his own rice at his own timing and in his own quantity, but this is a problem because no large-scale traders are willing to start tracking small farmers,” said Tom Wandera, environmental director of Butareja. It affects their bargaining power,” he said. This gives smaller traders and brokers the opportunity to take charge and control the prices. ”
He said that given the relatively large amount Butareha has historically produced, the situation could change if rice farmers were organized like banana farmers in western Uganda and sold through one group. said there is.
“The added value is also a missing aspect. Fully processed rice with less foreign matter, a higher percentage of whole grains, and properly packaged and branded is more affordable than most local millers simply remove the husks. It attracts favorable prices,” he said.
Rice distributor Juma Tumwesige also sees the potential inherent in rice as a business. But this potential is realized only if deliberate action is taken.
“The rice industry has potential for economic multiplier effects and agro-based industrialization, such as processing centers, packaging, logistics, and processing of rice residues into cooking briquettes. But all this requires a well-thought-out, pro-people plan,” he said.
Despite this possibility, especially given the existence of the Doho Rice Plan (said to be one of the largest in the country), which was established here by the government in the 1970s, Moses Nagwom, former Bunol Eastern MP Mr Musamba recently stated that the poverty level in India was: 89% in the district.
The district production bureau reports an estimated 65,000 kilograms of milled rice is produced each year, and local leaders say the average poverty level is alarming.
Butareja is an agricultural district where rice cultivation is the main economic activity. Cereals are both a food crop and a cash crop.
Doho owns over 2,500 acres of land and has 9,000 farmers participating as part of the outsourced and planned growers. But poverty still persists.
Like other rice-growing enclaves in the East, the future of the district is in jeopardy due to the uncertainties associated with the government’s wetland ban and the internal weaknesses mentioned above.