Gulu, Uganda | URN | Tomato suppliers in Gulu district are protesting exploitation by middlemen. The tomato suppliers mainly from Bweyale in Kiryandongo district and Wobulenzi in Luweero district, says the middlemen from Cereleno and Gulu main market are lowering the prices of tomatoes, something that is making them incur loses.
Paul Kato, a tomato supplier from Wobulenzi told this publication in an interview that these middlemen who call themselves giants have blocked them from selling directly to the retailers in Cereleno and Gulu main markets, which is affecting their business.
Kato says the middlemen are the ones who are determining the prices at which they should sell their tomatoes without considering costs incurred by the suppliers.
According to Kato, he used to supply the middlemen with tomatoes worth 4 million Shillings, but they would pay him Shillings 500,000 in cash while the balance is paid in installments with claims that retailers owe them money. He has threatened to seek intervention from Gulu District Resident Commissioner.
Florence Acan, another tomatoes supplier from Bweyale, says that besides the unreliable payment by the middlemen, they also harass and intimidate them. She appeals to the leadership of the two markets to come to their rescue since they are dealing in perishable goods
Lillian Auma Olanya, one of the middlemen refuted the accusations leveled against them by the suppliers, saying whatever they are doing as middlemen is to promote unity and equality such that they all get profits out of the sale of the tomatoes.
Auma who has been in the business for 11 years, says due to the perishable nature of their commodity they deal in, they thought it wise to regulate the supply of tomatoes that come in the market so that retailers don’t make loses.
Anthony Kilama, the Chairperson Cereleno market in Gulu town condemned the act of the middlemen, saying they are blocking the business of retailers and suppliers. According to Kilama, every vendor should be given the freedom to choose where and who to buy from.
A wooden box of tomatoes costs Shillings 130,000. When the retailers buy from either the middlemen or suppliers, they sell four tomatoes at Shillings 500.