The heat generated by the dwindling market prices of maize in the country has hit farmers hard. After investing millions of shillings to grow the crop, farmers now find themselves in the deep end of the pool and inevitably, are crying foul.
Maize prices have plummeted from Shs1,400, to Shs800 per kilogramme in the recent past then to less than Shs200 today. Government now plans to buy the produce at Shs500.
But the continued dwindling prices of maize has attracted MPs attention. Last week, the legislators voiced their concern over the matter that is distressing farmers.
Alarmed, the government has promised to intervene. Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde on Tuesday presented a statement on the matter to Parliament. Ms Kyambadde said the government will provide funding to buy maize on the market.
She said the money will be extended to cooperatives as well as members of the Grain Council of Uganda to buy maize from the farmers.
The big challenge, however is, while the country produced 4.6 million metric tonnes of maize in two seasons last year, the grain council and cooperatives have a standard storage capacity of only 920,500 metric tonnes.
But just when will the government start buying the maize given that much of crop is rotting away in many homesteads? This matter demands handling with utmost urgency to avoid waste and loss to farmers. Dilly-dallying will only subject farmers to more misery.
We believe that the reasons government is advancing as the causes for the diminishing prices of maize such as bumper harvest, declining demand by the traditional consumers, lack of reliable market information, and undeveloped marketing mechanism, among others, could be real, but are not insurmountable.
For instance, bumper harvest should never be seen as a problem, but rather an asset. This is why we welcome Parliament’s resolution on Tuesday requiring government to expeditiously revive the national food reserves. The reserve will ensure proper food preservation.
Most importantly, it will also be a critical measure for stabilising prices of agriculture produce. Besides, it will be a reliable food reservoir, especially for emergency situations such as famine or wars.
But why do many policy makers in government, most of whom benefited and know the rewards of institutions such as Produce Marketing Board, Lint Marketing Board, Cooperative Unions, etc, deny the current and future generations access to similar frameworks that worked for all?
Still, it is not too late for government to wake up, rewind the clock and revive these institutions, including food reserves, to absorb the bumper maize harvest. Such institutions worked in the past and will work again today.