ZOMBO. Chia farmers in West Nile and Acholi sub-regions in Northern Uganda have expressed worry over the uncertain market for their produce.
Chia is one of the high-value horticultural crops being promoted under the operation wealth creation (OWC) program on account of its high nutritional value.
But the silence surrounding its price determination and marketability has left many farmers in dilemma.
Besides, the farmers who were on Thursday meeting high ranking officials from OWC at their headquarters in Kampala noted that there are some middlemen buying chia seeds at a discouraging price of UGX2, 500 per kilogram.
The farmers also observed that the delayed purchase and supply of tools for post-harvest handling are undermining quality enhancement since they don’t have storage facilities and threshing machines among other things.
Mr Collins Oyirwoth, the chairman West Nile Farmers Agri-business Enhancement Initiative (WENFABEI), an organization that is spearheading the growth of chia in West Nile said the over 8,000 chia farmers who have subscribed to the organization are in urgent need of tapelines and threshers.
“Our farmers are in need of urgent intervention in the areas of postharvest handling through the supply of inputs and market for their chia since this will motivate them to continue growing the crop,” he said.
Oyirwoth added that the over 4, 000 tons of the projected chia harvest in the districts of Zombo, Nebbi, and Pakwach may go to waste if the OWC does not come to the rescue of the farmers.
But Lt. Charles Angina, the Deputy Chief of the OWC told the farmers to streamline their organizational structures by clearly indicating the details of members so that OWC is convinced of the people it is dealing with before any support is given.
“What OWC wants is a clear organizational structure with at least 61 members for rural areas and 41 for urban centres as well as details like photos and photocopies of national identification cards of the registered members,” Angina advised.
He gave the farmers a few days to meet the requirements in order to get inputs like tractors, tapelines, storage facilities and capacity building among others.
About the market for the crop, Mr Moses Mpanga, the Director Marketing under the OWC said the government is in diplomatic talks with chia buying countries like China and the US but called for patience from farmers if they are to get a better price.