Farmers that supply Uganda’s biggest breweries – Uganda Breweries and Nile Breweries – have today called on the government to consider re-opening bars with strict observance of COVID-19 standard operating procedures as they count lost revenue worth Shs19b.
The farmers say they have been earning approximately Shs95billion annually from the breweries to supply locally grown barley, sorghum, maize and cassava, which value has since gone down as bars and nightclubs continue to remain closed.
Twesiga Sosimu, the Chairman of Farm Uganda Farmers’ Group, said, “Since the lockdown came into effect in March this year, we continue to lose revenue at a steadily increasing pace, which is placing a strain on the livelihoods of approximately 45,000 farmers and about 225,000 dependants. Many of us have had to lay off workers like offloaders and millers, while others have been forced to abandon their grain farms altogether to find other ways of making ends meet.”
He added that before lockdown, over 7,000 farmers under his association were supplying 1,500 metric tonnes of cassava alone to Uganda Breweries per year, which quantity has reduced to 200 metric tonnes in 2020, leading to a loss of revenue amounting to Shs1.3 billion and counting.
Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, employing a reported 72% of the population in 2020 and contributing about 24% to Uganda’s gross domestic product in the 2019/20 financial year. The sector accounted for 79% of Uganda’s national poverty reduction between 2006 and 2013, leading to a reduction in the number of Ugandans living below the national poverty line from 31% in 2006 to 20% in 2013.
This progress has been severely impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued closure of bars is significantly straining their livelihoods and the economy as a whole.
Stella Keitirima, the Director of Stella Keitirima Enterprises, a farmer and supplier of cassava, sorghum and maize to the breweries, said, “With commercial farming, we too invest and plan for the long-term. We employ workers, we get loans and engage in other commitments as part of the brewing value chain that is intertwined. With the bars closed, that breakage in the value chain is being felt all all the way down to the smallholder farmer and casual labourer on the ground.”
The farmers say they are urging all the stakeholders to work together to strictly implement COVID-19 standard operating procedures in bars as the as the increase in consumer demand will lead to increased demand for raw materials from the farmers and in turn result in higher employment opportunities and revenues.