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July 22, 2008

Ugandan farmers abandon cotton for more profitable crops

Farmers in the traditionally cotton growing areas of in West Nile, Eastern and Northern Uganda have abandoned growing the crop in favour of the more profitable food crops like beans, sorghum, maize, and rice.

The ministry of agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries, assistant commissioner in charge of policy analysis Mr. Sam Ssemanda told Uganda’s Parliament last week that cotton farmers shifted to food crop production to take advantage of the expanding markets for produce in Southern Sudan and western Kenya. He said that people shifted to where they can get better income.

Ssemanda was responding to queries from MPs about reports that farmers were abandoning cotton growing in large numbers because of small returns.

Hon. John Odit who hails from the region told the committee that Sudanese buyers book food crops when they are still growing in gardens. A kilogram of rice in Northern Uganda was about Ush700 about a year back it now costs Ush2500 because of the ready market for rice in Southern Sudan. (1US$=UgSh1631)

Meanwhile legislators have accused the Cotton Development Organisation (CDO) for failing its mandate and inefficiency, charging the organisation worked against the farmers' interests,.

Ms. Cecilia Ogwal, herself a cotton farmer, accused it of taking sides with the ginners and to undermine farmers efforts. “CDO is supposed to regulate but it at the same time wants to strengthen the ginners through an elaborate association,” she said. She also accused the organisation of mismanaging subsidies amounting to Ush6.7 billion that government gave to farmers when prices went down about two years ago.

Ogwal threatened to block the organisation’s budget.

Last year Uganda earned US$19 million from cotton. About 65, 000 bales of cotton were exported, a sharp drop from 134, 000 bales of cotton exported in 2006/2007. According to CDO Board Secretary Mr. Hilary Magunda when their budget is approved by the committee they plan to reserve the trend in the current decline in productivity and production in 2008/2009 to about 300,000 bales.

This he said will be through support to land opening and ploughing, support to farmers' groups, provision of in - puts like pesticides and pumps to farmers and support for cotton targeted extension services, which were abandoned by the ginners under the zoning programme.

East African Business Week

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