Soroti factory gets Shs10b, asks farmers to supply fruits

At work. Staff at Soroti Fruit Factory Limited in the production hub on Tuesday. PHOTO SIMON PETER EMWAMU

The management of Soroti Fruit Factory Limited has, through Teso Tropical Fruits Cooperative Union (TEFCU), asked farmers to start supplying fruits with immediate effect after Parliament approved Shs10b as working capital to jump-start the project.
This was in response to requests by desperate farmers whose citrus fruits were rotting away due to delayed production.
On May 24, Daily Monitor newspaper published a story that highlighted the plight of farmers after they were sent away from the factory premises with their fruits as there were no funds to purchase their fruits.
The Shs48b plant that was commissioned by President Museveni on April 13, had initially been planned to start commercial production of juice in 2016 but delayed due to financial constraints.
Initially, the factory had requested for Shs35.7b working capital.
Mr Douglas Kakyukyu Ndawula, the Soroti Fruit Factory Limited chief executive officer, on Wednesday said being an enterprise business in competition with other manufacturing companies, the factory will buy fruits from other sub-regions in case of shortages in Teso sub-region.
He acknowledged that although TEFCU, which has 20 per cent shares in the factory, is the known farmers union contracted to supply fruits through its subscribing members, as management and board they will subject the union to competition by buying from other regions.
“Being a liberal economy we can’t guarantee the prices at which we shall be buying fruits. The prices may rise and fluctuate time and again,” Mr Ndawula said.
He added that they have asked the TEFCU secretary, Mr Lawrence Emoit, on behalf of the union, to start supplying 50 tonnes of oranges each day for one month. Mr Ndawula, however, didn’t reveal how much each tonne or kilogramme of oranges costs.
Mr Jorem Opian, a TEFCU board member, said they had an initial understanding with the factory and farmers to have the price at Shs600 per kilogramme, although the factory top management remains cagey.
Mr Emoit said Parliament’s approval is good news to farmers.
“Our duty will be receiving from farmers and transporting our well sorted products to the factory,” he said.
Mr Mark Epeduno, a citrus farmer in Kateta Sub-county, said: “If it’s true Parliament has approved working capital, then the management should start reaching out to farmers.”
Last month, Ms Josephine Okot, the factory board chairperson, said they could not borrow money for production because it is a government entity.

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