Kalangala targets rice growers to boost revenue

Thursday February 13 2020

Affected. A rice farmer in her garden.

Affected. A rice farmer in her garden. Authorities in Kalangala District have passed a resolution to start taxing commercial rice growers in the area. Photo by Yahudu Kitunzi 

By SYLVESTER SSEMUGENYI & AL-MAHDI SSENKABIRWA

Authorities in the island district of Kalangala have passed a resolution to start taxing commercial rice growers as a way of boosting local revenue.

In addition to fishing and oil palm growing, upland rice growing is the new economic activity being embraced by islanders.

Currently, more than 5,000 households are engaging in the business and rice fields are mushrooming in islands of Buyovu, Bufumira, Bunyama and Kaazi, Bukasa, Bubeke.

Mr Robert Munaaba, the chairperson of Bufumira Sub-county, said their tax base was affected by 25 per cent after the closure of some fishing landing sites which were a major source of revenue for the area.

“We have agreed as Bufumira Sub-county executive to tax rice growers as a way of increasing our revenue collections in order to serve our people better,” Mr Munaaba said on Tuesday.Under this new tax ordinance, all rice growers owning more than one acre, will be required to pay tax equivalent to five per cent of their harvest to the sub-county every season.

However, majority of rice growers have protested the new tax saying they were not consulted on the matter.

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“We have struggled on our own to make this [rice growing ] a doable business and it is surprising that the district now wants to tax it,” Mr Joseph Mulagwe, one of the prominent rice grower at Semawundo Village, said

The rice tax ordinance comes months after the district issued stringent guidelines to rice growers in the area. The authorities banned growing of rice within the 200 and 100 meters buffer zone for the lake and wetlands, respectively.

Routine growing of rice on the same piece of land and on hilltops within underlying Islands was also outlawed.

This followed wanton destruction of wetlands in the district by farmers who are venturing into rice growing which has of late become a lucrative business in Kalangala and neighbouring Mpigi District.

The Kalangala District chairperson, Mr Willy Lugoloobi, said the rice tax will first be enforced in Bufumira Sub-county before being rolled out in other sub-counties in the district .

“We also want to organise and register all rice growers like we did to commercial charcoal producers .So, we want them to dedicate a small portion of their produce to develop their area,” he said.

At least 50 per cent of residents in Kalangala who lost their fishing gear and boats as a result of the ongoing crackdown on illegal fishing joined rice growing and charcoal burning within forest reserves which has affected the environment.

Last year, the district issued new guidelines to regulate commercial charcoal production where all charcoal dealers in the district have to acquire licenses for production and transportation of charcoal .

A license which goes for Shs36,000 is renewable every month.

The move, according to district authorities is intended to save the remaining natural forest cover in Kalangala where the rate of tree planting is low.

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