KAMPALA – The Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Frank Tumwebaze has implored MPs to support the drive for interest free loans to institutions and farmers with large tracts of land.
Tumwebaze said a newly piloted food security project targeting government institutions with idle and large chunks of land had produced promising results.
He said that the ministry was seeking for interest free loans to extend the project to private institutions, which he said were many.
“When we got a scare last year of poor performance of crops, we said let us look at government agencies with idle and arable land such as the UPDF, Uganda Prisons and National Agricultural Research Organisation; we want to give them incentives to produce more,” said Tumwebaze.
He added that Cabinet was not certain about the modalities of giving interest free loans to private farmers.
“I really need you to support these people who are not funded by government. You could interact with the finance ministry such that together we achieve it,” said Tumwebaze.
The minister said he had contacted several private institutions with large acreage of land who expressed interest in food production if they could be supported – financially.
“The Vice Chancellor of Gulu University called me over the project; there are many private players who are excited about this intervention, but to do farming on 300 acres of land, you need extra support,” said Tumwebaze- adding that the implementation of the fund would be a revolving model where money from the produce is ploughed back.
MPs tipped Tumwebaze to look out for other institutions countrywide with unutilised and large acreage of land saying many would be interested in the programme.
“Sir Samuel Baker School in Gulu district has 400 acres of land but they are utilising only 100; Unyama National Teachers College has 700 acres but they are using 100 acres,” said Martin Ojara Mapenduzi-the Bardege-Layibi division MP.
The committee learnt that government agencies implementing the food security project were producing food, which they in turn consume and wondered how the intervention would mitigate food insecurity.
“From the meetings we have had with all security forces, they have said they will consume all the produce internally yet the whole idea is to be food secure. How are we helping on the high food prices?” asked Agnes Apea – the Amolatar district Woman MP.
Apea said any intervention on food security should espouse establishment of storage facilities to mitigate wastage during high yields.
“Where are you going to put the money we give Prisons Service to buy food? You already have that budget and government is supporting you to produce food,” said Apea.
The Commissioner General of Prisons, Johnson Byabashaija said the inmates’ population was continuously on the increase and the food produced under the project and that purchased using the budget is not adequate.
“The prisons population increases at eight per cent per annum; what we purchase and what we produce is not enough,” he said.
Byabashaija said that in 2022, Uganda Prisons Service planted 3,642 acres of maize grain expecting to harvest 5463 metric tonnes using the existing budget.
He asked for additional funding to acquire machinery, staff and accommodation structures for the newly established farms.
Legislators were delighted to hear that Uganda Prisons had become a centre of excellence in producing high quality seeds.
Tumwebaze said government was planning to establish a national seed company in collaboration with the Prisons Service, which would ensure quality seeds.
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