Government has earmarked Shs19 billion to establish a fruit factory in Nwoya District through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme, Daily Monitor has learnt.
The factory, with an expected output of 12 metric tonnes per hour, will add value to the mangoes, oranges and guavas that are grown not only in Nwoya District, but also across Acholi Sub-region.
Speaking to Daily Monitor on Tuesday, Ms Khadija Nakakande, the Naads spokesperson, said the installation of the processing equipment will be done in phases, starting with eight metric tonnes per hour for mangoes and oranges, and later four metric tonnes per hour for guavas.
“Our aim as Naads is to increase production for the import substitution through value-addition, improve incomes of farmers and their families. We shall still continue supplying seeds to the farmers,” she said.
She added that everything, including land, is ready for the works to begin, and that commencement of construction works had only been delayed by the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
“The works would have started exactly at the start of this financial year, but we have been held back by the nationwide lockdown since our team that was meant to travel to the UK to inspect the plant before shipping could not travel in March due to the global travel restrictions,” she added.
This newspaper has established that the equipment for the factory is set to be supplied by Alvan Blanch, a British manufacturing and project engineering company that specialises in post-harvest crop processing.
However, before they supply the equipment, a Ugandan delegation is meant to travel to the plant to inspect it.
The factory will be constructed in partnership with Delight Uganda Ltd, the manufacturers of Cheers juice, and Nwoya Fruit Growers Cooperative Society that brings together at least 6,000 fruit growers from eight sub-counties in the district.
Dr Samuel Mugasi, the Naads executive director, said the process of procuring a contractor is underway and that the works should be complete within two years.
“The establishment of the fruit factory will turn around many lives of the farmers in Nwoya and the neighbouring districts because it will provide ready market for the farmers. Had it not been because of the lockdown, what you would be seeing now is the actual construction works,” Dr Mugasi said.
On Monday, Mr Patrick Okello Oryema, the Nwoya District chairperson, applauded the development, stating that the factory will boost the economic development of the district.
“The factory solves the market puzzle for farmers, who have been producing fruits since 2017,” Mr Oryema said.
Ms Julian Adyeri Omalla, the Delight Uganda Ltd managing director, said the company has since 2017 been counting losses of at least 1,400 hectares of fruits, amounting to Shs300m per season due to lack of a fruit processing plant.
“Naads coming in to support us is a huge blessing. Our intention is to increase the number to 14,000 out-growers and we intend to cover the whole of northern region once the factory comes into play,” she said.
The agricultural sector continues to be the most important sector in Uganda, employing approximately 69 per cent of the population.