Kabale – Over 700 tea nursery bed operators in Kigezi Sub-region have petitioned President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to prevail over a matter in which they are seeking payment for tea seedlings worth UGX143 billion.
In a July 10 petition signed by the chairperson of South Western Uganda Tea Nursery Bed Operators, Frank Byaruhanga, they indicate that they were contracted by government to supply the tea seedlings to farmers between 2014 and 2017 but no payment was done to that effect.
The farmers are seeking that the president accords them audience as failure by goverment to pay them they have incurred alot of debts as some had even got bank loans as banks are threatening to sell off what they diposited as security and that even the more than 280,000 casual workers, who were previously hired to work in the different tea nursery beds, are now threatening to drag their former employers to court over non-payment of wages.
Byaruhanga says that due to the frustration, the tea nursery bed operators have gone through they even filed a court case against the government over non-payment in October 2018 where they have spent about Shs250m in court and legal fees this was after their efforts t to dialogue with President Museveni for an amicable solution over the matter has been blocked by some selfish individuals in goverment.
He says that earnings from the green leafs have increased as it has increased from ugx 11billion in 2008 to ugx 55b in 2019 which has led to the construction of four new tea processing factories at Kitumba in Kabale District, Nyakabande in Kisoro District, at Rugyeyo, Bwindi, Kayonza expansion, and Mpungu in Kanungu District are which are earning government revenue.
Philip Zikampereza the chairperson of Kabale District Nursery Bed Operators Association, says that the booming tea enterprise was allegedly used as a campaign tool for President Museveni in 2016 but when they engaged in it and supplied to the farmers goverment has failed to pay them as it now four years.
Zikampereza who is also the Butanda sub county NRM boss in kabale says that goverment needs to come out and pay the people unless it is to be hard for NRM and president museveni to convince the people.
Hajji Shaffiq Sekandi the kanungu Resident District Commissioner Shafique Ssekandi has asked the nursery bed operators to be patient because President Museveni is aware of their troubles as he has been having dilaogue with them as last year in December he met , selected tea nursery bed operators in Rwakitura where he promised to resolve the matter of unpaid tea seedlings.
President Museveni launched tea growing in Kigezi in 2008 as a way of increasing household income among the people of Kigezi being that kigezi doesn’t have a cash crop and promised that government would buy all the tea seedlings and supply them to farmers.