Watermelon farmers in Kumi district have run out of option on what to do
with their crop in the garden.
The melons are ready for harvest; some are rotting but their
market continues to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
For some farmers, watermelon had become part of their
seasonal income with the market in Kenya and neighbouring districts. Many say they have
run out of options and are sure that they will lose almost the entire season even
when the government finally eases the lockdown.
Julius Okello is one of the
affected a watermelon farmer in Kumi. He has planted three acres of watermelon hoping to cash in around this period. He says all his dreams were shattered
because his usual buyers from Kenya cannot cross over to Uganda, there is low
demand in the local market.
Okello who doubles as the Deputy
Mayor in Kumi Municipality is unable to sell the watermelon which have long
ripened. The fruits have started rotting in the garden as the available market
is unable to consume all the watermelon.
He says watermelons earned him more than 10 million Shillings last season encouraging him to expand the enterprise only to be faced
with the current challenge. He says that his efforts to spray the
melons to prevent damage have not yielded much.
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Kumi Municipality Commercial officer, Mary Acam says more
than ten farmers who have been supplying watermelon to Kenya are counting
losses. She explains that since transport was limited, access to bigger markets
has been difficult for most of the farmers.
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In Kumi town, several trucks carrying food items like matooke
and Irish potatoes are seen parked along the roadsides, others moving to
residences looking for the market. Some of the foodstuffs have been crossing to
Kenya and South Sudan but the supply has been affected by COVID-19 lockdown.
Hadija Wasembe, a food vendor in Kumi town says they are also
incurring losses as demand for food items is low. She says that most of the
losses are in perishable foodstuffs like matooke.
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The full impact of the new coronavirus and the associated
disease COVID-19 in Kumi is not yet