By Moses Hategeka *
“My son, its unbeliebvable but a reality. Its me you are now seeing, driving and hawking my poutry farm eggs, from towns to towns, hoping to find customers for my eggs says Mubiru John a poutry and cattle farmer from Mukono district. On being asked, what has prompted him to do so, he narrated to me that, the global Covid-19 crisis, has had a devastating impact on his farm earnings. Since January 2020, the prices of per tray of my eggs, has drastically been reducing from Shs 12,000 to Shs 7000 in May. It is so frustrating for me and other poutry farmers, as I have continue incurring chicken feeds costs yet the farm is yielding no profits but only losses for me”.
To make matters worse, even the price of per- little of milk from my cattle farm, has in the same period todate been plummeting from Shs 1200 to Shs 300 and yet I have to sustain the farm, which unfurtantely, I am doing on an operating loss. He says!
The Covid-19 preventive measures among which includes, business shutdown, that also included shutting down hotels, resturants, food joints, public transport, international airports, and curfew, that the country introduced, made farmers, to loose a big percentage of their customers and market base and this coupled with, the long lockdown period that the country has been and is still partly in, has made the lives of farmers in different parts of the country more miserable, as reports of farmers, especially banana farmers seeing their bananas rippening and getting wasted continues to trickle in due to decreasing number of buyers.
The situation has been and is being made worse by dwindling of majority of people’s disposable income, with mostly those engaged in informal sector severly affected and unable to meet their basic needs, due to the ongoing lockdown and accompanying preventive mesaures.
It is mostly only the agricultural dealers who had large stocks of beans and maize flour, that have made serious money during this on going Covid-19 crisis, largely because of the government intervention to massively buy their produce and have it equitably distributed to the low income earners dwelling in urban centers, and also because of people’s preference of their produce to other easily perishable goods like bananas, as theirs, can be stocked and survived on, for a long time, as the country goes on grappling with Covid-19 crisis.
However, much as the Covid-19 crisis, has made and is making the country, to expereince an economic slump, it is important to note that, both the agricultural productivity loss and profitability that has been registered in various agricultural subsectors, during this ongoing Covid-19 crisis, has largely been a blessing in disguise, in that, it has cushioned the economy from galloping and hyper inflation effects, and also sort of enabled the country to relatively sustain its micro-economic stabilty.
Going forward, the economic stimulus packages, that many interest groups from different sectors are craving for, from government to enable them stay on course in their business enterprises in this Covid-19 period, should without any debate, firstly be given to the farmers especially to those specifically engaged both in producing and adding value to their farm goods, and to those who are willing to do the same, as well as to agricultural cooperatives that does the same and are willing to establish modernized storage facilities of their members farm products.
There is no reason, why our banana farmers should be left to cry and see their bananas being wasted, when they can be helped to turn their bananas into banana flour and crisps for consumption not only in Uganda but also in other countries.
Pumkin and soya porridge is very nutrious and on high demand in our surrounding countries as well as to other countries in Africa and Asia. Our pumkin and soya farmers should be skilled and financially enabled, to add value on their goods and tap into this huge avalialble markets.
In sum, Agricultural sector, has played and is playing a fundemental role in shock-absorbing the economy in this Covid-19 period and therefore it is prudent that the country should leverage on its excellent climatic conditions, and prioritize agriculture in its economic stimulus plans during this ongoing Covid-19 crisis, and and develop sustainable strategies that will position the country to not only continue being food secure, but to also become a net exporter of food through deepening agricultural production import susbstitution stratgegy.
Moses Hategeka is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Reseracher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer .He can be reached via email: email@example.com