Covid-19 farming and food problems

Saturday May 16 2020

 

By Michael J. Ssali

One of the biggest preoccupations today in most of our towns is food distribution. Politicians, security forces and, more recently, religious leaders are busy distributing food. Due to the Covid-19 imposed lockdown thousands of households especially in towns are crying out for food.

The truth is that food prices have not gone up. On the contrary, farmers are disappointed that farm gate prices for nearly all food crops and livestock products are falling. Only three months ago, a tray of eggs cost around Shs10,000 but today it has fallen to as low as Shs6,000 and farmers are struggling to get customers.

A big section of would-be customers for the products in urban areas are under lockdown with limited cash to spend.

A poultry farmer in Masaka who keeps about 30,000 birds has told your columnist that he will be off laying some 15,000 of them in a few weeks’ time but he is worried about finding a market for the birds when most restaurants, bars, and hotels are either closed or just struggling to get clients.

The big paradox is that there is big food production and low food prices in a period when thousands of fellow Ugandans are starving and crying for help.

Most companies are making losses due to reduced revenues and can no longer pay salaries to their employees who are anyway no longer reporting for work. Public transport is closed and only a few of those who have the money can access food markets.
The schools to which farmers sold food items such as beans, maize, potatoes, cassava, and fruits are closed. Yet to remain in business farmers must sell their produce and make some profit.

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The danger is that lack of incentives for farmers like fair prices for their products could reduce food production, resulting in more poverty and malnutrition for us all.

We are going through a puzzling and an unprecedented situation. Refusal to observe the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as laid down by the Ministry of Health will lead to catching the deadly disease. Yet the lockdown seems set to cost us our jobs and livelihoods.

ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

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