Cocoa farmers rejoice price hike

A man sorts cocoa beans at Esco Uganda Limited  Ltd, a company that buys  cocoa, in Kampala. Photo | Longino Muhindo

What you need to know:

  • The farmers have urged the government to conduct a feasibility study to identify the reasons for low cocoa yields in the area.

The price of cocoa in Bundibugyo District has risen from between Shs4,000 and Shs8,000 a kilo to Shs15,000, which has excited farmers.

The farmers say they are now reaping substantial profits. They, however, raised concern about the low yields they are experiencing.

In an interview with this publication on Monday, Mr Joel Byasaki, a cocoa farmer from Busaru Sub-county, said: “The increase in cocoa prices has boosted our household incomes and allowed some of us to complete stalled development projects due to a lack of income.”

“Unfortunately, cocoa prices are rising at a time when our production is declining. I used to harvest 50 basins every two weeks from my half-acre cocoa garden, but currently, I harvest only four to five basins. I don’t know what is causing this; otherwise, I would be enjoying some good money,” he added.

Ms Hellena Mbambu, another farmer, urged the government to conduct a feasibility study to identify the reasons behind the low production of cocoa in the area.

She said cocoa is a major source of income and livelihood for the community and urged agriculture officers to help them come up with solutions to the low yield issue, saying if the production was high, many farmers would be reaping big.

“All our gardens have cocoa plants, but they don’t yield much. If nothing is done in the coming years, people will start uprooting cocoa plants,” she said.

Mr Joseph Mbakania from the district production department advised farmers to adopt agronomical practices recommended by agriculture extension workers in their respective sub-counties to increase production.

He said many cocoa trees are ageing, exceeding 40 years, and suggested that farmers should cut them to encourage fresh growth. 

He added that some farmers are not adhering to good agronomic practices such as pruning.

Mr Mbakania urged the farmers to ensure that they maintain good quality crops to attract a better market. 

Mr Mbakania revealed that in 2019, the district produced more than 24 metric tonnes of cocoa but the current production has significantly decreased.

He said more than 60 percent of Ugandan cocoa comes from Bundibugyo.

Mr John Byomuhangi, the manager of Icam Chocolate Uganda Limited, encouraged the farmers to consider selling their cocoa directly to the company. 

He said some farmers use middlemen who sometimes exploit them.