A section of pineapple growers in Luweero District have petitioned the district authorities over the planned relocation from a 600 acre piece of land they rented from Kaaya Ranch in Butuntumula Sub-county, Luweero District.
The farmers claim that the landlord wants to give them an alternative land without compensation, a move they are opposing, saying they had already invested money in growing pineapples at the site.Mr Samuel Kayongo, the chairperson of the Luweero Pineapple Growers and Traders Association, said the farmers possess hire agreements in respect of the acreage acquired for five years.
“We have discussed with the administrators of the Kaaya Ranch to allow the farmers to utilise the land as per the signed rental agreements, but the discussions have hit a dead end. Unlike other crops, pineapples take a longer period to mature and realise the profits. We want our district leaders to intervene,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
He said each farmer paid between Shs600,000 and Shs700,000 per acre for five years, with several farmers cultivating more than 20 acres.
“The value of each acre of the pineapple garden stands at Shs7m. The landlord is not willing to pay back that money. The landlord should allow the farmers to utilise the land for a period of five years as indicated in the agreements,” Mr Kayongo, who hired about 70 acres, said.
Mr Richard Ssembajwe, a farmer, said he has utilised the land for only two years. Many of the affected farmers claim that they got loans for the pineapple farming business and expect to have cleared them after the five-year farming period.
However, Mr Paul Ssensibo Kaaya, the manager of the Kaaya Ranch, denies the alleged planned sale of the land to investors.
“We are not aware of the eviction of the pineapple farmers, but we are negotiating with the farmers.
We have bank loans that can only be settled when we sell off part of the Kaaya Ranch land. We are still engaging the farmers,” he said.
Luweero District chairperson Erasto Kibirango in an interview with the Monitor tasked the managers to respect the agreement.
Mr Kibirango said: “Unlike other crops, where the farmers get the profits at the end of each season, the pineapple farmers clear the bush and have to invest a lot of resources during the first two years before getting the profits from their respective pineapple gardens.” He added: “As the district, we shall have to engage the Kaaya Ranch farm managers to ensure that the farmers don’t lose the gardens before the expiry of their respective land rental agreements.”
Luweero District Resident Commissioner Richard Bwabye in an interview with the Daily Monitor on Wednesday said his office is in touch with the farmers, but they are yet to meet the landlord.
Pineapple growing is one of the lucrative farming businesses in the Greater Luweero area where several farmers hire land for cultivation at a negotiated price between Shs500,000 and Shs700,000 per acre for five years. The prices have risen from Shs200,000 in 2017.