RWANDA-UGANDA FEUD: Cassava Farmers Lose 10,000 Tonnes of Cassava Chips In Kiryandongo District
(Cassava rotted at Katuna and Mirama hill borders as Rwanda closed borders, farmers want leaders to involve them in meetings after Angola MOU).
While politicians, security forces, media are roaring promoting disagreements between Uganda and Rwanda, farmers in Kiryandongo district are counting losses and abandoning cassava growing.
The farmers want to be involved in talks between Uganda and Rwanda so that their concerns are taken care of or Uganda government finds alternative markets.
Over 100 groups and Individual farmers planted cassava on 2000 acres of land as they were assured of a strong market in Rwanda.
“We were exporting to the biggest market in Rwanda and total acreage had increased in 2018 only to be affected in 2019”.
Issa Hassan Byekya , the Kiryandongo Dristrict Production Officer says the market in Rwanda had inspired farmers but now they don’t want to hear anything regarding cassava growing.
“ Its now six months since the border was closed between Uganda and Rwanda hitting Ugandan exports to Rwanda its south-western neighbor to its lowest according to available statistics.
Uganda’s formal goods exports to Rwanda dropped sharply in March, plummeting 83.2% from a year ago, according to recent figures from the Bank of Uganda. In monetary terms, exports dropped from $15.7m in March 2018 to $2.6m.
Rauben Mwesigye a farmer rededicated a square mile( 640 acres) to planting of improved seed of cassava at Kimogoro village, Mutunda Subcounty in Kiryandongo district.
“ Its disheartening seeing my cassava go to waste because I don’t have a market. In September, I will pay more millions to uproot the rotten cassava and invest into something else”.
Byekya says Kiryandongo district has lost because they lack market and processing industries in the area.
Several programs and projects supporting cassava growing are in trouble. NUSAF , Youth livelihood, women’s entrepreneur fund , Doctor Dip and others had invested millions of shillings.
“ Around 100 groups have refused to be supplied with cassava stalks for planting this season”.
While at the Western Uganda Joint Agricultural Sector Annual(JASA) review held in Fort Portal it was recommended that government of Uganda should speed up the agro- Industrialization sector which would process cassava into starch product other than cassava that cannot be preserved.
Byekya says cassava grown in Kiryandongo district can be consumed at only 30% and 70% is for export. When nothing is done then the farmers loose and hence the country at large.
Rauben Mwesigye one of the biggest cassava grower said he has a large scale cassava farm. He says his large market for cassava was in Rwanda but ever since the border was closed has lost a lot.
“ Our cassava that was being transported to Rwanda rotted at Katuna border and Mirama border when it was closed”.
Rauben says he lost a billion shillings in cassava growing but at the end of all loses were counted.
Formal goods exports to Rwanda accounted for 0.4% of total exports, down from 4.8% in February and 5.6% in both January and December. In 2018, formal exports to Rwanda comprised 5.8% of Uganda’s merchandise exports.
Imports from Rwanda seem to have been barely affected by the border closure, growing 2.1% year on year in March to $1.67m. On a quarterly basis, imports from Rwanda rose 0.4% to $3.9m in the quarter that ended in March compared to a decline of 52.9% in the last quarter of 2018.
March’s drop follows an escalation in hostilities between the two countries that saw Rwanda advising its citizens against travelling to Uganda and closing its borders.
Both countries accuse each other of violating protocols of the East African Community especially the common market and customs union protocols.
In his latest comments on the stand-off, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni seemed to downplay its effects on trade.
“Even if the border is closed, trade will go on, only that it will be through smuggling. You can’t stop trade through border administration. People resort to smuggling. Others have resorted to export a lot of things to South Sudan, DR Congo, Kenya and Tanzania,” Mr Museveni said on We
Indeed, informal cross-border trade between Uganda and Rwanda does not appear to have been affected much by the standoff. Uganda’s informal goods exports to Rwanda in March came in at $2.9m, unchanged from the previous month. On a yearly basis, informal exports to Rwanda were down 42.2% — but this is in keeping with an eight-month downward tren
rmal cross-border exports to Uganda’s neighbours — and Burundi — fell 16.7% in March to $45.9m and accounted for for 7.6% of total exports. The decline was largely due to a slowdown in informal exports to Kenya and Tanzania.
Uganda’s formal exports to countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa trade bloc also declined, mainly as a result of lower shipments to Kenya and Rwanda. Exports to Comesa countries came in at $103.5m, 23.7% less than the same month a year ago. Exports to Kenya fell 52% to 26.4m. Exports to South Sudan, however, increased by 28.6% year on year to $40.6m.
Trade with the Middle East and non-EU European countries was especially robust. Exports to the Middle East ballooned from $31.8m in March 2018 to $262.6m this March, driven by a rapid increase to shipments to the United Arab Emirates from $30m to $259.5m.
The dramatic increase in exports to the United Arab Emirates appears to be driven by gold exports, which jumped from $25m in March last year to $363.4m this March. A found gold exports from Africa to the United Arab Emirates had accelerated to $15.1bn in 2016 from $1.3bn in 2006.
The report identified Uganda as one of the countries that import a lot of gold to the UAE yet produce very little of the mineral. Most of Uganda’s gold exports were from the Democratic Republic of Congo and had been smuggled into the country, the report said.
Until recently, coffee was Uganda’s most valuable export commodity. Gold shipments, however, surpassed coffee for the first time in 2018, bringing in $514.9m to coffees’ $436.4m. As a proportion of total exports, gold exports increased from 12.1% in 2017 to 14.1%, while coffee shipments fell from 16.1% in 2017 to 12% in 2018