More than 800 tobacco farmers who grew and sold tobacco to the Continental Tobacco Company Uganda Ltd between 2018 and 2019 are demanding payment of upto Shs9 billion.
The coordinator of the affected farmers in Maracha District, Mr Christopher Adia, on Tuesday said: “In 2018, we signed a contract with Continental Tobacco Company Uganda Ltd to grow tobacco. We sold the tobacco that year and the same thing happened in 2019. But up to now our money has not been paid.”
Mr Sam Obitre, one of the farmers affected, said he sold tobacco worth Shs32 million to the company, and was hoping to use the money to sort out other issues.
“We are supposed to use this money for paying school fees for our children, buy food and to do development at home but up to now this company has refused to pay us,” he said.
The farmers say they have on several occasions raised their complaints to the office of the Resident District Commissioners of Maracha and Arua districts but little has been done. They now want government to settle the issue.
When Daily Monitor contacted Mr Peter Waigera, who was the area leaf manager with Continental Tobacco Company Uganda Ltd in West Nile region, he declined to comment on the matter, saying he no longer works with the company.
Efforts to get another contact from the tobacco farm were unsuccessful by press time.
However, Continental Tobacco Company Uganda Ltd has reportedly reached an agreement with government to get funds through the Parliamentary Supplementary Budget so as to pay the farmers.
The general manager of the West Nile Cooperative Union, Mr Moses Etukibo, confirmed this development, saying: “I raised the issue with the office of the President and the government responded by accepting to pay them. Under the government arrangement, I think Parliament was requested to pass a supplementary budget to effect this payment.”
He said last week, the government ordered verification of the documents of the farmers, including receipts for audit before payment could be made.
According to the chairman of West Nile Cooperative Union, Mr Tom Anguyo, arrangements are being made to pay the farmers in January 2021.
“Unfortunately, there are certain people among the farmers who pretend to be leaders and they mislead farmers. They are trying to politicise the issue instead of consulting the chairman,” Mr Anguyo said.
In September 2019, the State Minister for Investment, Ms Evelyne Anite, promised to make a follow up of the payments of the tobacco farmers. Some of the tobacco that were sold to the company are now abandoned at the stores of West Nile Cooperative Union in Terego District.
Tobacco has been a major cash crop widely grown in West Nile region but many farmers in this region are now increasingly opting to grow other crops, citing low market and shortage of wood fuel for curing the tobacco.