New Moroto-Soroti road boosts trade

By Steven Ariong

Excitement is seeping through residents of Moroto and Soroti districts over completion of the tarmacked Moroto-Soroti road. The 197km new road is to boost trade and ease transportation of agricultural merchandise from rural areas to urban settings. It has also boosted inter-border trade and relations between Uganda and Kenya, where more traders are now coming in to buy produce from Uganda.

Already, the transport fares from Moroto to Soroti have reduced from Shs35,000 to now Shs20,000, with extra volumes of goods being transported, which was not the case before. Travel time between the two districts has also reduced significantly from seven hours to less than half the time. During bad weather, the travel duration would be longer than the usual.

Before the road was constructed, transportation of foodstuff and other merchandise into Karamoja Sub-region was a nightmare. Due to high travel charges met by the traders, the final consumers shouldered the burden as goods were sold expensively.

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The high food prices caused by bad roads made it hard for families in Karamoja to fight malnutrition in the sub-region, which gets 97 per cent of its food from neighbouring districts such as Soroti, Lira, Mbale, and Kapchorwa. The entire road project cost the government Shs398b.

It was constructed by China Communication Construction Company Limited (CCCC). Mr Peter Lokol, one of the traders, told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that the completion of the road has made it easier for traders to transport their merchandise. "Traders in Karamoja had given up dealing in produce because transport fares were very high and even getting the vehicles to transport the produce to Karamoja was very hard because the owners of the trucks were not always willing to go to Karamoja due to the poor state of the road," he said.

With the bad road, many traders would pay Shs20,000 per bag of maize flour from Mbale to Moroto. On a bad day, their perishables would rot on the road before reaching their final destination. However, he said the situation has since improved.

Traders have now put up makeshift markets on the highways and are selling to travellers.
Ms Betty Nambooze, another business woman in Moroto dealing in perishable items such as tomatoes, said operating business in Karamoja has become profitable because of the new road.
"We used to incur losses during the rainy season, we could get stuck and all the produce would rot away," she said.

Mr Johnson Omagor, another trader, hailed government for upgrading Moroto-Soroti road which he said has not only benefited the people of Karamoja but also promoted inter-boundary trade where Kenyan traders freely cross over and buy merchandize from Soroti and Mbale to take to Kenyan markets.

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