Sisto Okello, one of the tobacco farmers in Palabek Gem Sub County in Lamwo district, says that the price of tobacco per kilogram has not changed for the last six years yet the prices of inputs keep rising.
Numerous grades of tobacco, language barrier, and inadequate storage
facilities are limiting farmers in Lamwo district from earning a fair amount from their harvests.
There are an estimated 1,000 tobacco farmers in Lamwo district. They grow and
sell tobacco to Meridian
the sole company buying tobacco in the district. Sisto Okello, one of the tobacco farmers in Palabek Gem Sub
County in Lamwo district, says that the
price of tobacco per kilogram has not changed for the last six years yet the
prices of inputs keep rising.
Okello says the price for first-grade tobacco is
Shillings 7,000 and the lowest grade goes for Shillings 300. He proposes that the top grade should go for
Shillings 10,000. He says even with the grading system; the company uses
an average method to buy tobacco after physical inspection.
According to Okello, there are nine tobacco grades but says
MTC has split the grades to 25, way above the 11 grades used by the British
American Tobacco Company back then. Okello says there are only nine tobacco grades To1, To2, To3, then
Mo1, Mo2, and MoM and Bo1, Bo2, and BB.
//Cue in: “Gin ma oweko…”
Cue out: …tye abongwen.”//
Eveline Angee, a tobacco farmer in Kamama Village
in Moroto parish in Palagek Gem sub-county argues the price of tobacco per
kilogram should be increased because tobacco growing needs a year of
concentration yet a farmer realizes a single harvest.
This she says does not give them time to plant
other crops. She explains that this year, she was given an average price of Shillings 2,800 per kilogram yet she expected between Shillings 4,800-5,000.
//Cue in: “Wan otiyo matek…”
Cue out: …yelo wiwa mada.”//
Thomas Komago, a farmer in India Village, Gem
Palabek Gem Sub County always says that
the company has one store in the whole district and restricts their purchase to only four tonnes a day. Komago
says because of the storage problem and low price, some farmers have chosen to
transport their tobacco to Gulu so that their produce does not lose its grade.
//Cue in: “Lawil bene nongo…”
Cue out: …nongo opongo.”//
The farmers attribute the low price and poor grading of their
harvest to language problems since they don’t speak good English as the buyers are
non-Acholi speaking people.
//Cue in: “And race ni…”
Cue out: …jamine dwong,”//
Attempts to get a comment from the area manager of
MTC were futile as another person kept answering her phone, saying she was
busy. Tom Anguyo a manager of West Nile Cooperative Union, which deals in
tobacco reveals that tobacco grades keep changing almost yearly and it varies
from company to company.
He argues that the companies normally split tobacco grades to
minimize the price and maximize profits.
//Cue in: “The number continues…”
Cue out: … maximize profits,”//
There were an estimated 75,000 farmers relying on
tobacco by 2014, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.