By Andrew Irumba
The Cabinet Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde has asked Parliament for more time to consult on the Sugar Bill, 2019 that the President rejected over sugarcane zoning.
Kyambadde in a September 11 plenary said, government needed three more weeks to come up with a comprehensive report on its position after carrying out country-wide consultations with the sugarcane farming societies. This report will then be used by Parliament to reconsider the Sugar Bill.
Parliament passed the Sugar Bill in November 2018. The Bill sought to provide for the development, regulation and promotion of the sugar industry to ensure that there is sustainable, diversified, harmonized, modern and competitive sugar sector.
In the Bill, government had proposed zoning of 25km between mills with no more than one mill in that zone without growers in that area only supplying sugarcane to it.
However, the legislators overwhelmingly voted against zoning saying it allows one manufacturer to monopolize sugar cane production in an area, which would lead to unfair prices to farmers and curtail outgrowers.
President Museveni said the Bill,
as passed by Parliament, would spell doom for the sugar industry.
“Only medium and large scale sugarcane farmers operating on more than six acres should be allowed to partner with the factories,” he said, adding that setting prices for farmers should be based on the international market price of sugar.
The President noted that caution should be taken when dealing with small scale sugar operators who buy sugarcane at a higher price.
On June 11, President Yoweri Museveni held a closed door meeting with the sugarcane farmers in Busoga sub-region at the Jinja state lodge a head of his planned Operation Wealth Creation campaign.
Among those who attended the meeting included the Minister in charge of Presidency, Esther Mbayo, and Issa Badhugo, the chairperson of Busoga Sugarcane Out-Growers Association, who headed a delegation of 28 farmers.
Sources privy to the meeting said Museveni agreed with the farmers that the excess cane supplies can be exported so that farmers do not incur losses and that it does not hurt local millers.
The President also said, sugarcane milers need to grow their own cane, a view that contradicts the government’s usual position that local farmers need to become out growers for agro-processing firms to boost their incomes.
“I have always told Madhvani (Kakira Sugar Limited managing director) to grow his own sugarcane and leave these out growers,” he said during a press briefing at the Jinja state lodge.
He added that Busoga residents need to reduce on the subsistence farming and adopt commercialised farming of coffee, fruits, and other food for their families. They should also grow pasture for animals; do poultry for eggs and fish farming.
He said sugarcane should be grown by an individual with at least six acres of land.
“Sugarcane takes 18 months (almost two years) to be ready, and if it is grown on small acreage, one earns about Shs2million. When you deduct costs you are left with Shs1m. But with 10 acres or more, the returns are much bigger,” he reportedly said.
Michael Mugabira, the coordinator for Uganda Sugarcane Growers Association confirmed that the two parties agreed that excess cane be exported to the neighbouring Kenya.
“We are currently cutting the cane and expect our first sugarcane consignment to Kenya in a few days, to come” he said, adding that cane production has been on the upward trend since 2017 when prices shoot up.
Jim Kabeho, the chairperson of the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association said, they are comfortable with any decision that farmers will take and that the farmers have a right to sell their cane anywhere.