Cocoa farmers in Uganda have expressed their concern over fake cocoa seedlings being supplied by government Under Operation Wealth Creation which they say will affect cocoa growing in the country.
“The government has been supportive to the cocoa sector through supplying cocoa planting materials to farmers but we still have challenges because the seedlings being supplied to farmers are of poor quality. The seedlings are being sourced from nursery beds which are not certified by government agencies responsible for certifying nursery beds in the country,” Said Kimbowa Abdul, the Chairperson of Uganda Cocoa Growers Association.
He said for the farmers to access quality cocoa planting materials, government should support the private sector to establish cocoa nursery beds across the country.
“This will make the seedlings available to farmers as compared to the current situation where there are very few nursery beds in the country despite the high demand for the planting materials.”
The chairperson observed that cocoa farming in Uganda has been embraced by Ugandans due to the high demand but majority of the farmers are not accessing international market for their cocoa.
He added that “This has exposed them to be cheated by middle men who procure the cocoa beans at cheaper prices.”
“Government needs to support cocoa farmers by connecting them to international market like what it has been doing in other Agriculture sector such as coffee. Access to both regional and international market will earn Uganda more revenues accruing from cocoa exports,” he explained.
Getting a comment from Operation Wealth Creation was futile as the OWC Public Relations Officer Major Tabaro Kiconco was not available to comment on the matter.
According to Kimbowa, Ugandan cocoa is highly demanded on the international market because of its flavor and also being organic since Uganda cocoa farmers do not apply inorganic fertilizers.
The Executive Director of Uganda Export Promotion Board Elly Twineyo Kamugisha said for the product to be promoted abroad, farmers need to produce in bulk and also maintain high quality.
“Government is committed to support the farmers, but they should be in position to produce in bulk to sustain supply on the International market alongside their beans meeting the desired quality demanded on the international market,” he advised cocoa farmers.