By: Clement Aluma
Fruit farmers in West Nile have reason to smile after a juice processing factory was opened in Arua. The Shs5b plant located in Dadamu Sub-county, about four kilometres from Arua town, was officially commissioned by President Museveni. It will not only process mangoes but other fruits like oranges and guavas, among others.
“All the households should ensure they get maximum income from the available land they have,” the President advised at the event early January. Many farmers, under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) programme, who had abandoned growing fruits due to lack of market, are now re-strategising for the next planting season.
Romano Leti, a farmer in Logiri Sub-county, says he does not have to sell his mangoes and oranges on the open market any more. “I am now assured of a better market because middlemen have been benefitting from us a lot. I can now have value for money in the coming season,” he explains. “This is what we have been praying for, someone to buy all our fruits at a good price. We (fruit farmers) have been in talks with Mr Ajedra and I think he is all positive.”
The proprietor, Emmanuel Ajedra, says modalities are being worked out on either paying farmers on spot or on weekly basis at prevailing market prices. He adds that his only worry is that the factory’s production rate may be higher than fruits supplied and thus run out of stock. Mr Gabriel Aridru, the State Minister for Investment, observes that a fruit processing plant in West Nile is long overdue.
“This presents an opportunity to not only owners but also the farmers because they will have to plant more and sell more to earn extra income. There is also employment opportunity for the youth here,” he says.
About 50 per cent of mangoes grown in Uganda go to waste according to statistics from Makerere University’s School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-engineering.
The factory will to employ about 60 people as casual and technical workers. It is fully equipped with treatment cylinders, a laboratory, and the pulp units save for the homogeniser which is yet to be fixed. The available power from Nyagak hydro power dam in Zombo District should make it possible for these and many other factories to set up in Arua and other towns in the region.