Mixed fortunes for traders in lockdown

Wednesday June 3 2020

Hustle. A woman pulls a cart of matooke in

Hustle. A woman pulls a cart of matooke in Busia Market on April 12, 2020. PHOTO BY DAVID AWORI  

By Alfred Tumushabe, Felix Warom, Scovin Iceta, RobertMuhereza, Bill Oketch, Alex Ashaba, & Malik Fahad Jjingo

People’s sources of livelihood countrywide have been jeopardised by government measures introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The closure of schools, communal livestock markets, shops selling non-food items, salons, bars and night clubs and suspension of public transport, among others, have upended economic and social life of nearly everyone.
Some people who remained in business, especially those dealing in food stuffs, share their two-month experience working during lockdown.

Mr Johnson Mugisha Muhwezi, a poultry farmer in Kabale Town with about 1,000 birds, says he has registered countless losses as the price of poultry feeds remained the same yet that of eggs dropped to almost half.
“I was selling a tray of eggs at Shs12,000 before the lockdown but now I sell it at Shs7,000 yet the price of the poultry feeds is still high. I am pondering on changing the business,” Mr Mugisha said on Monday.

Ms Aminah Nagirinya, a sales representative at Buremba Road Mbarara-based West Pot Bakery, says: “For the last two months we have been producing only what we are able to sell off that day. Our production reduced drastically, from 200 loaves of bread a day to around 50. Our major buyers are shops and supermarket owners. Shops had closed and supermarkets lost some customers.’’

Mr Asuman Kihogo, a butcher in Rwebikoona, Kamukuzi Division, says he lost 50 per cent of his customers.
“Before, I was slaughtering a cow of 150kgs to 200kgs and sell off the meat that very day. When the lockdown was announced, we started pairing to share one cow as we had no customers,” Mr Kihogo reveals.
He adds that with private vehicles being permitted to operate, his sales are steadily improving.

Milk dealers
Milk dealers have also felt the pinch of the lockdown as buyers of fresh milk have also reduced.
In Mbarara, Nyakisharara Dairy Farmers that initially sold 200 litres of milk daily now sells between 50 and 1,00 litres.
“Majority of our customers are those who work around town. They buy when going home in evening but they had stopped coming to town,” Ms Grace Kagagga of Nyakishara Dairy Farmers, says.

However, James Kabukya, a cattle trader in Kiruhura Town Council, Nyabushozi Kiruhura District, says closure of communal livestock markets left few players in the business which was to his advantage.
“Communal markets attract many traders from different areas; prices hike because of competition. But nowadays, I move to farmers without getting concerned about competing with other traders. Though not many farmers are selling cows, because with closure of education institutions they are not under much pressure. I am still able to take cattle to Kampala for slaughter twice a week. In the past I would make a trip to Kampala once a week or even in two weeks.”


Ms Rose Mugabi, who operates a dry food store in Kabale Town, says her stock of posho and beans earned her a lot of money during the nationwide lockdown.
“For about two months now, I have been selling about 1,000 kilogrammes of posho and 300 kilogrammes of beans every day,” she said.
Ms Mugabi sells a kilogramme of beans between Shs2,500 and Shs3,500 depending on the quality while a kilogramme of posho goes for Shs2, 000.

Making money
Ms Maureen Nyakato, a farmer in Kahugabunyoyi, Fort Portal Town, says she made good money from vegetables she had in compound and on rooftop.
“At the time lockdown started, I had planted vegetables like lettuce that matures in one month, dodo, French beans, black night shed and all of them were harvested and sold off. I replanted and they will soon be ready for harvesting,” Ms Nyakato says.
Some of her customers buy potted vegetable varieties.
Ms Nyakato says she earns Shs3m monthly from urban farming.
Mr Patrick Okello, a resident of Alutkot Village, Angeta Parish, Olilim Sub-county in Otuke District has been making money from okra.

He has a 20-acre farm where he also grows eggplants and tomatoes. “I ride a motorcycle up to Acholi and Karamoja sub regions to sell okra. In last month I earned Shs2.3 million from okra and honey,” he says.
Ms Samantha Ajidiru, a dealer in produce in Arua Main Market says: “When the lock down started, I had some maturing matooke and ground nuts, I have managed to earn at least profit of Shs3 million in a month.”

Mr Santino Aluma from Logiri says: “In the past two months, I sold a lot of matooke and sweet potatoes. Actually, the demand for the food is very high. I usually make orders from neighboring Zombo District but the challenge is transport because few vehicles are moving to the markets.”
Mr Jude Matovu a secondary school teacher in Masaka says he ventured into farming during lockdown and expects good harvest. Matovu grows cabbages, green pepper and eggplants.
Currently, a 50kg bag of eggplants costs Shs100, 000 while that of green pepper is between Shs200,000 and Shs250, 000.
“I have used this time when schools are closed to expand my garden and I will be harvesting some of the crops soon,” Matovu reveals.