Over 700 tea nursery bed operators in Kigezi Sub-region have petitioned President Yoweri Museveni to prevail over a matter in which they are seeking payment for tea seedlings worth Shs 143 billion.
In the petition signed by the chairperson of South Western Uganda Tea Nursery Bed Operators, Frank Byaruhanga, the group indicates that they were contracted by government to supply the tea seedlings to farmers between 2014 and 2017 but no payment was done to that effect.
The farmers are asking a meeting with the president to have the matter settled.
These say they have incurred lots of costs from loans they took while more than 28000 casual workers, who were hired to work in the tea nursery beds, are now threatening to drag their former employers to court over non-payment of wages.
Byaruhanga says due to the frustration, the tea nursery bed operators have even filed a court case against the government over non-payment in October 2018 where they have spent about Shs250m in court and legal fees.
These note that earnings from tea have increased from Shs 11billion in 2008 to 55b in 2019, which has led to the construction of four new tea processing factories at Kitumba in Kabale District, Nyakabande in Kisoro District, Rugyeyo in Bwindi, and Mpungu in Kanungu District, which are all earning government revenue.
Philip Zikampereza the chairperson of Kabale District Nursery Bed Operators Association, says the booming tea enterprise was used as a campaign tool for President Museveni in 2016 but when they engaged in it and supplied to the farmers, government has failed to pay them.
Hajji Shaffiq Sekandi, the Kanungu Resident District Commissioner has asked the nursery bed operators to be patient because President Museveni is aware of their troubles.
He noted that the president last year in December met selected tea nursery bed operators in Rwakitura where he promised to resolve the matter of unpaid tea seedlings.
President Museveni launched tea growing in Kigezi in 2008 as way of increasing household income among the people of Kigezi, which at the time didn’t have a major cash crop. He promised that government would buy all the tea seedlings and supply them to farmers.