Barley farmers in Agoro Sub-County in Lamwo district are
complaining bitterly over the low price offered to them by buyers.
Barley growing was introduced in Agoro in 2008 by
Engineer Hilary Onek, who was by then the Minister of Agriculture.
Since then, more than 2,000 farmers have embraced
the crop a kilogram of which goes for 1,550 shillings.
However, farmers say the price they are offered
per kilogram of barley is too little to uplift their standard of living in
addition to the troubles endured when traveling up and down the hills.
David Okot, said he has been growing barley for
the last 10 years.
Initially, a kilogram of barley was 700 shillings
and it was increased to 1,500, but when farmers complained the price was
increased by 50 shillings in 2020.
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This season, Okot planted 10 acres of barley and
expects to get between 25 to30 bags. However, he says the transportation cost
involved cuts all his profits.
According to Okot, it takes three people to
transport a sack of barley of about 60 kilograms from the top of the hill down,
at 20,000 shillings. Besides, paying each carrier, the farmer has to cook for
them as well.
The barley farms are located at an estimated 15
kilometers distance atop Agoro hills.
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The main local buyers of the barley are; Blue Cup
Company Limited and Totco Uganda Limited.
Alfred Apiya Odongyik, a farmer and agent of Totco
Uganda Limited, said the transportation expenses involved in growing barley
start from taking the seeds up the hill at 5,000 for a 20-kilogram bag of
Odongyik revealed that the farmers want the price
of barley per kilogram increased to at least 2,000 shillings.
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Dactus Ogiki, the Lamwo District Commercial
Officer, who climbed Agoro hills to see the farms, said the price per kilogram
is unfair, given the hardship they endure to transport their produce.
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Ogiki said he is going back to the sub-county to
help them form a cooperative society so that they have a collective voice to
better bargain for a better price.
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Ogiki said he is yet to compute the tons of barley
grown by the farmers each year.
Barley is a grain that is primarily grown as
animal feed and an ingredient in making beer, but it is also used in making
bread, soup, stew, and other food products.
Joseph Kawuki, the Agriculture Manager at Uganda Breweries
Limited, said before farmers started growing barley, they were told how much
the products would be bought per kilogram.
Kawuki said the farmers’ complaints would have been valid if
the price offered before the farmers started growing the crops was reduced during
the time of buying the barley.
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Paul Okello, an Agronomist at Uganda Breweries based in northern
Uganda, said barley farmers in Agoro are being offered the highest price by
either 25 shillings or 50 shillings compared to other barley growing districts in
Okello revealed that a kilogram of barley in Kabale goes at
1,500 shillings, Kapchorwa 1,525 shillings.
He said the company would have bought the barley direct from
the farmers, but vehicles cannot access the hills where the farms are.
According to Okello, the solution to additional costs to
growing barley is not increasing the price per kilogram, but opening access
roads so that the produce is easier to transport.
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Okello said they also transport and offer imported seeds for free to the farmers and they need to recover such costs.