Mbarara. Farm-gate tea prices, especially in the districts of Bushenyi, Mitooma, Sheema, Rubirizi and Buhweju have been falling in the last three months, leaving farmers to count losses.
The farmers most of whom are shareholders of Igara Growers Tea Factory which has over 7,000 members, indicate that prices for the green leaf tea has been falling, from Shs600 in August to Shs550 in September and then Shs470 this month.
Speaking at a farmers meeting in Nyakashaka Trading Centre, Buhweju District, farmers said the cost of production continues to skyrocket against low returns.
“Tea growing is a business, some of us operate on bank loans and when prices fall in this way it means banks will take our property we tendered as security,” said Mr Mujurizi,a tea farmer but also district councilor in Buhweju.
Former Buhweju MP Ephraim Biraro said despite having a company that should keep farmers informed on what is happening in the market, they only dictate to them with prices.
Tea is mainly grown in greater Bushenyi and parts of eastern Uganda.
Mr David Ahimbisibwe, also a farmer in Buhweju, said whereas tea prices continue to fall, other attendant costs such as fertilizers has been increasing.
“When the price was at Shs600 the price of a bag of fertilizers was at Shs70,000 now it has increased to Shs90,000 against the current tea price of Shs470,” he said, noting the other costs such as labour, are making tea growing impossible.
However, according to Mr Jackson Byaruhanga, the Igara Growers Tea Factory field operations manager, the falling tea prices have become a serious challenge, which has mainly been influenced by poor quality of tea.
Uganda, he said, has failed to put up a regulatory authority and mechanism in the tea sector which is abetting poor quality tea.
In Kenya and Rwanda, he said, they are fetching better prices at the Mombasa Auction than Uganda because they have priotised quality in the tea sector.