Legislators have requested the government to support the tea sector and formulate a policy to streamline tea production in the country.
The MPs were debating a Report of the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry on the state of Uganda’s Tea Industry in comparison with neighbouring countries presented to the floor of the House by its chairperson, Hon. Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) on Wednesday 18th May, 2017. The Committee sought to establish the challenges in the tea growing and exportation in Uganda.
Ruhunda noted that tea is the third foreign exchange earner for the country and that 90% of Uganda’s tea is sold at the Mombasa tea auction, the biggest in Africa, with a kilo going for $1.6.
“The committee recommends first tracking the regulation of the industry so that the farmers can be protected from extortion,” said Hon. Ruhunda adding that “There is also need for rehabilitation of the Training Institute for tea growing to equip farmers with better tea growing practices.
The Committee recommended a number of measures intended to improve tea production including good plucking practices; sufficient fertiliser application; urgent involvement of the government in managing the sector; withdrawal of VAT charge on tea as well as government subjecting value addition to green leaf crops.
Parliament Speaker, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, noted that on top of the case of tea, the country lacked a policy for cocoa and wheat grown in the country.
“We need government to step up to the occasion and provide support to the production of these crops because they contribute heavily to our foreign earnings; we need to see policies guiding these sectors,” she said.
Hon. Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma District) said that Uganda Tea sold at the Mombasa tea auction was repackaged and sold as Kenya or Rwanda tea.
“We are also not doing enough to encourage our farmers to grow tea; there are farmers who supplied tea to the government but for over two years they have not been paid. Tea is a cash crop that will help increasing household earnings if we support its production,” Kamateeka said.
Hon. Raphael Magyezi (Igara County) said that the tea quality of Uganda’s tea is among the best in the region because of the good climate, soils and altitude.
He added that Uganda has been invited for the Dubai Expo2020, which will be a good opportunity for the country to have its tea promoted.
Hon. Lyandro Komakech (Gulu Municipality) added that there is need to review liberalisation and to consider the government to take control of certain sectors like green leaf production.
“Is it worthwhile to leave the economy of the country to the forces of demand and supply or should we close it because clearly privatisation is not really useful in certain instances. We also need to revamp the marketing boards of the major cash crops,” Komakech said.
In response, Minister of State for Trade, Hon. Michael Werikhe Kafabusa agreed that this is a very good report because it explicitly focuses on the issues affecting the sector. He promised to consider the Report and report back to the House.