Kumi watermelon farmers cry out as lockdown bites
Kumi, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Watermelon farmers in Kumi district have run out of option on what to do with their crop in the garden.
The melons are ready for harvest; some are rotting but their market continues to be disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown.
For some farmers, watermelon had become part of their seasonal income with the market in Kenya and neighboring districts. Many say they have run out of options and are sure that they will lose almost the entire season even when the government finally eases the lockdown.
Julius Okello is one of the affected a watermelon farmer in Kumi. He has planted three acres of watermelon hoping to cash in around this period. He says all his dreams were shattered because his usual buyers from Kenya cannot cross over to Uganda, there is low demand in the local market.
Okello who doubles as the Deputy Mayor in Kumi Municipality is unable to sell the watermelon which have long ripened. The fruits have started rotting in the garden as the available market is unable to consume all the watermelon.
He says watermelons earned him more than 10 million Shillings last season encouraging him to expand the enterprise only to be faced with the current challenge. He says that his efforts to spray the melons to prevent damage have not yielded much.
Kumi Municipality Commercial officer, Mary Acam says more than ten farmers who have been supplying watermelon to Kenya are counting losses. She explains that since transport was limited, access to bigger markets has been difficult for most of the farmers.
In Kumi town, several trucks carrying food items like matooke and irish potatoes are seen parked along the roadsides others moving to residences looking for the market. Some of the foodstuffs have been crossing to Kenya and South Sudan but the supply has been affected by COVID-19 lockdown.
Hadija Wasembe, a food vendor in Kumi town says they are also incurring losses as demand for food items is low. She says that most of the losses are in perishable foodstuffs like matooke.
The full impact of the new coronavirus and the associated disease COVID-19 in Kumi is not yet fully assessed.
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