By Our Reporter
A section of farmers who are cultivating on the land belonging to Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd in Kabutukuru Village, Bigando Parish, Miirya Sub County, Buruli Constituency, Masindi district, are accusing the company of breaching the contract they signed.
According to farmers, they signed a contract to cultivate 1,100 acres of land for two seasons (one year), but the company has now imposed a 25% tax on the maize harvested and ordered them to vacate the land this season, which wasn’t agreed upon in the contract.
It’s reported that Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd sits on 15 square miles of land along the Masindi-Kafu road, and more than 2,000 people have been employed on this farm.
Mr. Kakara Moses, the LC1 Chairperson for Kabutukuru village, who hired 16 acres of land, explains that they were invited by the proprietors of Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd in 2021 to cut trees and burn charcoal.
‘’When we finished burning the charcoal, they asked us to invite more farmers who were willing to hire and cultivate on the land, which we did,’’ he explained, adding that the situation started to worsen when they imposed their own price of 800 shillings per kilogram of harvested maize, which is contrary to the agreement signed.
‘’Since the farm is fenced, we agreed to sell our maize to them, but now they have imposed a 25% tax on the harvested maize, and they have stopped us from taking or selling our maize outside,’’ Kakara said. He therefore appealed for government intervention because they have injected a lot of money.
Mr. Wanyama Alex, one of the farmers, told this publication that last year, in September, they signed an agreement with the company to clear the bush and cut down trees in order to create room for cultivation for two seasons, which were expected to end in February 2024.
To their dismay, Wanyama disclosed that the company has imposed a 25% tax on their harvested maize, which is contrary to the contract they signed.
‘’When we raised our issue to the office of the RDC, we were let to transport our maize, but now they have locked the gate and denied us an exit route until we pay the 25% tax, which wasn’t in agreement,’’ he decried.
Another farmer, Mugonza Haruna, said that they have been ordered to harvest their maize by August 15th this year, yet they signed a contract to cultivate this part of the land for two seasons.
‘’Why are they imposing a 25% tax on our harvested maize yet we paid 120 million shillings to cultivate for two seasons? Why are they ordering us to harvest our maize by the 15th of this month yet we still have another season? he questioned.
Mugonza therefore said it’s unfair for the proprietors of Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd to impose a 25% tax on their harvested maize and order them to vacate the land, yet they paid them 120 million shillings for two seasons.
He is therefore asking for government intervention since they are losing the little money they got from the Parish Development Model and borrowed from other sources.
The issue prompted the deputy resident district commissioner, Masindi Sanon Dhaala, to intervene in the matter.
Speaking at the meeting held at the Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd headquarters yesterday, Dhaala disclosed that recently they engaged the company’s proprietors, who promised not to charge the farmers who paid and compensate them since they no longer needed them on their land.
According to the deputy resident district commissioner, there are two categories of people who are currently cultivating on the piece of land: those who hired the land for two seasons and those who were given free land on agreement of the kickbacks after the season.
Dhaala, however, expressed his disappointment when the investors failed to comply with the decision they agreed upon but went ahead to charge 25% tax on the harvested maize of farmers who hired part of the land.
During the same meeting, Larry Sseruma, one of the Mpaala Farm Ranch Ltd proprietors, declined to comment on the matter in the absence of his lawyer.
This prompted the deputy resident district commissioner to forward the matter to Emmy Ngabirano, the resident district commissioner.
The source that attended the indoor meeting that lasted for almost an hour in the RDC’s office told this website that Ngabirano appointed the district police commander to chair the same meeting, which is expected to take place today, August 16, 2023, at Masindi Central Police Station at 4 p.m.