BUNYANGABU. Coffee farmers and leaders in Bunyangabu District are stuck with a coffee huller factory that has been lying idle since 2016 after its construction.
The factory, worth more than Shs600 million, was built by government with support from African Development Bank under the community infrastructure improvement programme project.
The factory premises in Busamba Village, Kabonera Sub-county, have turned into a playground for children and grazing area.
Mr Deo Kasaija, the village chairperson, said the factory would be operational if they had funds to pay farmers for their produce.
He added that farmers end up selling their coffee to middlemen at giveaway prices.
Mr John Kyaligonza, the subcounty chairperson, said the factory failed to process coffee due to poor management.
“This factory was handed over to an incompetent cooperative society that lacks resources to run it,” Mr Kyaligonza said, adding that it was supposed to be run by the sub-county before sourcing for a competent cooperative to manage it.
According to Mr Kyaligonza, sub county leaders have forwarded their concerns to the district leadership, which will run an advert seeking a competent firm to run the factory.
Mr James Ategeka, the district chairperson, said farmers had no capacity to supply the required coffee.
“Government starts expensive ventures with the intention of raising household income of the people, but it is unfortunate that years have passed when the factory is still lying idle and a bank loan is accumulating interest when people are not benefiting,” Mr Ategeka said.
He advised government to first build the capacity of farmers to produce enough coffee.
“Our coffee farmers have no capacity to produce quality coffee to supply the factory and I am worried that other factories that are going to be constructed in the district will lie idle,” Mr Ategeka said.
The district chairperson said farmers were supposed to be organised into cooperatives before government operationalised the factory .
Mr Adolf Mwesige, the Bunyangabu County MP, who is also the Minister of Defence, is reported to have lobbied the factory for the farmers in 2016.
Uganda is Africa’s leading coffee exporter and among the top 10 global producers. According to the Central Bank, Uganda exported 4.1 million (60kg) bags of coffee for the year ended 2018, fetching more than $436m (Shs1.5 trillion).
However, this was a reduction from the 4.7 million kilogramme bags which fetched $555m (Shs2 trillion) in 2017.