Farmers under the Zombo Tea Growers Cooperative Society and a private developer are embroiled in a dispute over a donated tea processing machine. The conflict arose a week after officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, the Zombo Tea Growers Cooperative Society, the Deputy Zombo Resident District Commissioner (RDC), and security personnel attempted to retrieve the redundant tea processing machine from Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Ltd.

The private company received the machine over two years ago. However, the officials were denied access to the warehouse in Paidah, where the machine is suspected to have been stored, by the facility manager. Grace Atim, the Deputy Zombo Resident District Commissioner, criticized the firm for failing to install the machine, which has left tea farmers in the district in a difficult situation as their tea plantations have been overgrown.

Victor Opio, the chairperson of the Zombo Tea Growers Cooperative Society, noted that the machine was donated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives to benefit the farmers under the cooperative.

Edwin Beekunda Atukunda, the executive director of Edwin Foundation Tea Initiative Ltd, denied any wrongdoing regarding the machine. He stated that the machine is safely stored and suggested that farmers and district leaders should lobby for additional tea-processing machines instead of engaging in conflict.

Walter Kumakech, the Zombo District Production Officer, called for calm among the aggrieved parties and announced plans to organize a meeting to resolve the impasse.

Over the past decade, tea farmers in Zombo district have struggled with the lack of a tea processing plant, leading many to abandon tea growing. Tea cultivation in Zombo was reintroduced by the government during the 2013/2014 financial year through the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) program, after the industry collapsed during the political turmoil of the 1970s.

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