UGANDA - Tobacco farmers in Kibaale district have petitioned Parliament accusing Continental Tobacco Uganda Ltd of failure to pay for tobacco worth Sh 5bn which was sold to the company by the farmers last August.
In their petition to speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday, the farmers under the body umbrella Kakumiro farmers association noted that about 3,000 farmers sold tobacco to Continental Tobacco Uganda Ltd which set December 20, 2014 as the deadline for their payment.
However according to the farmers, despite several reminders by local leaders such as the RDC, and DISO to the company to clear the money, nothing has been done.
“The signs that this company will not pay us our money started at the time of buying Tobacco when the leaf technicians started withdrawing contract books from farmers,” said Barnabas K’nsamba the lead petitioner.
He added that; “ after the contract book is withdrawn from a farmer and a farmer went back to sell more tobacco, he/she would be issued with another contract book which had loan with it and this would mean you pay a loan which you didn’t get”.
The farmers mainly from Bugangaizi in Kibaale district noted that the failure to get paid by Continental, has resulted into confiscation of their property by banks which gave them loans to invest in tobacco growing.
The farmers also told Speaker Kadaga that most of their children who had been admitted to high institutions of learning, have seen been discontinued due to failure to pay tuition fees.
“We invested a lot of money in tobacco growing to the extent of getting loans from banks. But as I speak now these banks have resorted to taking our property and to make matters worse, our children have been sent out of school because we don’t have money to pay for their fees,” said Fred Mwesigwa the chairman Kakumiro town council.
They noted that, after facing too much pressure, the company decided to pay only the vocal and prominent farmers leaving out the silent farmers.
However efforts by New Vision to get a comment from Continental Tobacco Uganda Ltd, were futile as the known telephone numbers were switched off.
In response to the farmer’s petition, Speaker Kadaga has tasked the Parliament’s committee on Agriculture to investigate the matter and report back to Parliament for a way forward.
“This issue has come on the floor of parliament several times, I am going to ask the committee to expedite the consideration of this petition so that by the end of July we have a report. We need to summon this company so that it can explain why it is not paying the farmers,” said Kadaga.
Kadaga also advised the farmers to consider suing the company for failure to pay them adding that; “by doing this the company will have no choice but to pay because it will have pressure from both parliament and courts of law”.
Bugangaizi County West MP Kasirivu Atwoki said the company had become stubborn by dodging payment of the local farmers adding that their money had incurred interest.