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Western Uganda to get 20 Billion Shilling Tea Factory

Sunday January 23, 201

FARMERS in the newly-created Buhweju district are set to benefit from a sh20b tea factory, which has been established in their area.

The Government contributed sh7.7b to the project, while the owners of the factory, Igara Growers Tea Factory, contributed the balance.

“We are thankful to President Yoweri Museveni for fulfilling his pledge. Farmers in Buhweju grow a lot of tea but have always lacked a factory,” said Naboth Mbagirenta, the chairman of the factory owners.

Mbagirenta made the remarks while guiding state minister for agriculture Aggrey Bagiire around the facility.

“The plan to establish a tea factory in Buhweju was first mooted in 1963, but it is the NRM government which has fulfilled the pledge,” said Mbagirenta.

He informed the minister that tea was the leading cash crop in Buhweju district, with about 700 square kilometres under cultivation.

Bagiire said the Government decided to contribute towards the establishment of the factory because tea was Uganda’s third foreign exchange earner after coffee and fish.

According to Bagiire, last financial year Uganda earned $83m in foreign exchange, and tea continues to be among the 10 priority enterprises to be supported in the agriculture sector development strategy and investment plan.

Bagiire noted that tea production would be expanded to old and new potential areas in a planned manner.

He, however, regretted that despite having more than 100,000 hectares of land suitable for tea production in Uganda, only 20% was under active production.

To overcome low production, he said, the agriculture ministry would increase the number of tea processing facilities for maximum exploitation to match the increasing demand.

“I am proud that Kabale and Kisoro districts are gradually taking on tea growing and will be the areas in need of processing facilities to expand the tea industry in a planned manner,” Bagiire said.

He also noted that the Government would soon allocate resources towards the rehabilitation of Rwebitaba Tea Factory in Hoima district.

Once rehabilitated, Ugandan scientists will be facilitated to develop better tea clones and stop depending on clones imported from Kericho, in Kenya, Bagiire said.

“We intend to provide more funding to tea research to enable development of high-yielding tea clones and other appropriate technologies to be disseminated to the farming communities,” he said.

Records from Igara Tea Growers’ Factory indicate that Buhweju farmers have been producing over 11 million kilogrammes of green leaf per annum.

It is this enormous production potential, coupled with excess green leaf supply to Igara factory that justified the need of a factory with two processing lines to be established in the district.

A steering committee of about 11 members has worked with Igara to ensure the smooth implementation of the project.

Once the factory is completed, it will open new opportunities for the farmers, Mbagirenta said.

“Tea production is bound to shoot up because farmers will not travel long distances to supply green leaf to the factory,” he noted.

Igara Grower’s Tea Factory has over 3,800 shareholders.

The national annual green leaf production increased from 4.4 million kilorammes in 1995 to over 26 million kilogrammes as of last year, 40% of which comes from Buhweju.

Over 12.6 million high-yielding clonal tea plantlets have been distributed to farmers in Bushenyi over the last eight years.

With contribution from Igara and tea farmers over the next three years, national production is expected to increase to over 35 million kilogrammes, with Buhweju providing about 13 million kilogrammes.

In a 13-page memorandum to President Yoweri Museveni, the managers of the factory want sh5.6b to establish more processing lines to match with the expected increase in tea production.

In three years, they expect annual tea production to increase to 35 million kilogrammes, which will require five lines of production.

They also want the Government to overhaul the road infrastructure in the district to ensure that machinery for the factory and tea leaves are easily transported.

The farmers also want the Government to provide revolving funds to enable farmers acquire inputs for their gardens.

“We have provided farmers with inputs to increase productivity and ensure sustainability but we need Government support for sustainability,” said John Mubangizi, the Igara chairman.

He said in 2010, Igara factory invested about sh2b to purchase fertilisers and weed killers, which they later distributed to farmers at low interest rates.

By Ronald Kalyango The New Vision Newspaper

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