Tea farmers in the Kigezi sub region have vowed to campaign against NRM party flag bearers in the sub region unless government pays them the Shs 163 billion they are owed for supplying tea seedlings to NAADS from 2015 to 2017.
Frank Byaruhanga, the chairperson of the South Western Tea Nursery bed operators says the farmers lost their personal businesses in South Sudan and used their own money to support the government program but have been hung to dry by the same government.
Byaruhanga is also the Kanungu District NRM party general secretary.
“We are saying, no pay of the tea seedlings, no vote for the NRM party in this area,” he said.
According to Byaruhanga, more than 718 farmers supplied tea seedlings worth Shs163 billion and employed more than 280,000 casual workers to work in the nursery beds and tea garden.
Surprisingly he says, suppliers of other agriculture inputs such as maize, citrus, cassava, heifers, pigs, among others, are paid promptly yet those of tea seedlings are have not been paid for the last five years.
“We are starting to believe that the tea growing enterprise that was launched by President Museveni in 2008 in Kanungu District and Kigezi Sub-region was aimed at making the farmers poor.”
He added that the tea farmers that received tea seedlings are now harvesting money from selling green tea leaves to the six tea processing factories in Kigezi, where government is earning huge taxes, yet the people that supplied the tea seedlings have never been paid.
Philip Zikampereza, the chairperson of the nursery bed operators in Kabale, Rubanda and Rukiga districts says in several correspondences they have had with President Museveni and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, NAADs was directed to pay the tea nursery bed operators but nothing has ever been done.
“We are left with no choice but to use these campaigns to get their attention,” he said.
However, James Tweheyo, an NRM CEC member has urged the farmers to remain and await the President to handle the matter conclusively.