Grasshopper trappers in Masaka region are up in arms against power distributors UMEME over the sudden increase in the power tariffs. The concern comes ahead of the beginning of November, the season when the dealers get busy.
They accuse UMEME of revising power tariffs without considering them, which has made the business of catching grasshoppers so expensive. Under the revised rate, UMEME will collect Shillings 350,000 from each bulb connected directly to a power line up from Shillings 250,000 previously.
Joseph Matovu, one of the grasshopper trappers in Masaka and Rakai districts, says a medium dealer will part with at least Shillings 1,050,000 to light up 3 bulbs in an enclosure, which he says is costly. According to Matovu, he requires more than Shillings 3 million to light up 3 breeding centers in Masaka within a space of two months.
"Grasshopper trapping is a game of chances where we invest a lot of money with a lot of hope of getting profits but sometimes we make big loses. We plead to UMEME to be considerate and reduce on these rates or else most of our colleagues will be kicked out of the business," he said.
Isaac Mukasa, a grasshopper trapper in Rakai district, says they can't afford the new rates given the zero balance policy enforced by UMEME. Mukasa explains that they spend a lot of money on the materials they use to trap grasshoppers such as metallic drums, iron sheets, wires, bulbs and chokes among others. He asks UMEME to give them some time to pay the revised tariffs.
"We wonder why UMEME came up with the decision to increase power tariffs at this time yet we had received information that power tariffs were reduced by the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA)," he said.
Hajj Quraish Katongole, the Chairperson of Old Masaka Basenene Association Limited, the umbrella body of grasshopper trappers in Masaka region, says the power distributors announced the new power tariffs early this year and they pleaded with UMEME to push them to the November season with the hope that the April season will be good for them but unfortunately they made big losses.
He says they are now advising their members to from groups so that they can share the costs of power so that they are not pushed out of business because of the new power tariffs.
Babra Kasande, the Manager UMEME Masaka Region defends the revised power tariffs, saying power charges have been increasing overtime. She explains that it would unfair to maintain old rates yet other power consumers such as domestic and industrial consumers are paying more.
Kasande also says the revised rates were agreed upon with leaders of grasshopper trappers during a meeting with UMEME officials in March who asked them to enforce the tariff this season.
She also explains that they have 3 payment systems, which the dealers can use.
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She advises the dealers to follow the set guidelines and only use the bulbs they have paid for or else UMEME will not hesitate to confiscate their materials since they will keep watch on all grasshopper breeding grounds. The November season is expected to start towards the end of this month and end late December.