By Naboth Isaac Niwagaba.
The State Minister of general duties in the Ministry of Finance Henry Musasizi Ariganyira has handed Agricultural Extension workers the task to guide Apple Farmers on boosting production.
Musasizi was yesterday officiating as Chief Guest at the launch of the Rubanda Apple Growers Cooperative Society in Rubanda District. His speech was delivered by the Rubanda District LC.5 Chairperson Ampeire Stephen Kasyaba .
The Group that brings together 61 Apple Orchard owners in the District was formed in May 2022, after a workshop that was organized by the NAADS secretariat and the Ministry of Agriculture in Kasese District; to train farmers in commercial apple production.
An interim Committee that has since been managing the group affairs was yesterday sworn in for a four year term of office, and Boaz Ndyomugyenyi, a resident of Hamuhambo Town Council was unanimously elected as the Chairperson.
After presenting the certificate of registration to the Apple Growers, District Chairman Kasyaba read out Minister Musasizi’s speech in which he tasked Agricultural extension workers to boost Apple production by providing technical guidance to the farmers .
“Apple growing is a lucrative business and can be a large base of job and wealth creation if our people are guided on modern technology and other better methods of farming,” Musasizi’s speech read in part.
Musasizi also encouraged the farmers to embrace Government programs focussed on development of agricultural output, such as Operation Wealth Creation, and the Parish Development Model.
He contributed Ugx 2 million to support the activities of Rubanda District Apple Growers Cooperative Society.
During the function, the Rubanda District Apple Growers Cooperative Society Chairperson Boaz Ndyomugyenyi said one of the reasons why they came together was to unite efforts against the challenges they face, especially matters regarding competition from the importers of apples from South Africa , low quality, and high costs of production.
The ceremony held at Volcano Hotel in Rubanda Town Council, was attended by the Rubanda District Production Officer, Principal Assistant Secretary and a team from Kachwekano Zonal Research and Agricultural Development-KAZARD, among others.
KEY FACTS ON APPLE GROWING.
Apples are traditionally grown in temperate countries but experts say that farmers in tropics can still tap the benefits of apple growing.
Experts at KAZARD, in Kabale District under the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro), have been testing varieties that can grow under less chilly conditions since 1999 when the first trials were held in Kigezi highlands.
Four apple varieties were planted under three adaptation trials including Anna, Dorset Golden, Rome Beauty and Winter Banana. On-field trials proved that Anna and Golden Dorset can be easily adapted to the conditions in Uganda. These varieties, as well as Fuji, can withstand the heat in the tropics.
The two varieties have been distributed among farmers since 2010. Twenty four other varieties are being screened.
Denis Ashaba, a scientist at Kachwekano explains that it has been proved that apples can grow in various ecological zones including the highlands of Kigezi, Rwenzori and Elgon while successful growing is practiced in lowland areas of Ankole and central Uganda.
Ashaba says that in the tropics, a plant starts fruiting after 30 months, and a well-managed plant can yield more than 300 fruits twice a year. At the farm gate price of Shs1,000, one can reap Shs100,000 from just one plant.
With seed distribution efforts of Naro and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads), more than 100,000 farmers are involved in apple growing in Uganda.
Dr Rolland Agaba, a plant breeder at Kachwekano explains that the starting point is obtaining clean seed. The seedlings are obtained at Naro stations at Shs1,000. To establish an acre of apple trees, one needs about 450 plants.
To establish an orchard, Naro scientists recommend well-drained soils that are not prone to water-logging.