[h=3]Coffee farmers in Muleba, Misenyi, Bukoba and Karagwe districts, have appealed to the Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU) and Karagwe District Cooperative Union (KDCU), respectively, to speed up their payments for their crop sold to the two unions several months ago.[/h] The farmers say they find difficulties in paying school fees for their children, while others cannot afford to take sick relatives to the hospital for treatment. The complaints were recorded from various areas including Rubafu, Maruku, Nyakibimbili Cooperative Societies (Bukoba Rural), Rulongo, Ihangiro, Kachwezi and Ijumbi, all in Muleba district. Others were Izigo, Rutenge, Ibare, Kamachumu Primary Societies, in Muleba district, Ishozi and Kyaka (Misenyi), Kahororo and Kibeta (Bukoba Municipality), Kamagambo and Rwabwere Primary Societies, in Karagwe district. Mzee Byabantaho Kyonaboine (75) from Rubafu village, in Bugabo Division, Bukoba Rural district complained that he sold 20 bags of clean robusta coffee to Rubafu Primary Society in June, this year but has not received any payment yet. He said three of his five sons recently died of HIV/AIDS, leaving behind ten grandchildren under his care, three of whom are in secondary school. The same concern was voiced by Mzee Daudi Rwakajumba (79) from Ijumbi village, in Muleba district. He said he needed the money to pay for medical services at Runya hospital. Acting Kagera Cooperative Union (KCU) General Manager, Festo Gatahya, said at the start of the crop buying season in March, this year, the KCU board announced that a kilogramme of robusta cherry coffee would be paid 1,350/-. However, he said the price of coffee on the international market fell sharply, forcing the Union to buy a kilogramme of cherry robusta at 1,100/- instead. According to Gatahya, the Union started the season with cash balance of 3.0bn/- and later secured a loan amounting to 7.5bn/- and started buying coffee from farmers in Bukoba, Muleba and Misenyi districts. The Union has a total of 126 affiliated primary cooperative societies. He said the Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) had promised to pay the Union after every two weeks, but the agreement was not honoured. He said on August 19, this year, TCB paid KCU a total of 5.5bn/- which was disbursed to the farmers, leaving a balance of 800mil/-. He said up to July 31, this year KCU had collected a total of 9,267 tonnes of coffee while the Union anticipated to collect 15,000 tonnes this season. KDCU General Manager, Novatus Tiigirelwa, on the other hand said liquidity was the main problem as they received loan from the CRDB Bank in piece meal. The KDCU was also paying 1,100/- per kg for the coffee. He said to date the Union had collected a total of 8,000 tonnes out of the expected 12,000 tonnes. Investigations revealed that private coffee buyers including OLAM Ltd and Karagwe Estates Ltd were buying on cash basis offering between 1,300 and 1,500/- per kg. Karagwe Estates Ltd, a private coffee buying company is reported to have bought over 10,000 tonnes of coffee. During a heated debate in Parliament, the legislator for Nkenge, Asumpta Mshama (CCM) blasted the government for keeping a blind eye on the plight of Kagera coffee farmers. The same concern was raised by Muleba North MP, Charles Mwijage (CCM). The Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Engineer Christopher Chiza, blamed KCU and KDCU Officials for colluding with private farmers by buying coffee at the Kemondo Auction. He promised that a task force had been formed to investigate the matter and find a lasting solution to problems facing the coffee farmers.