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Atiak sugar factory seeks Acholi Cultural Institution intervention over fires

7,300 acres of sugarcane were destroyed in fires last year. File Photo

Amuru, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Atiak sugar factory in Amuru district has asked the Acholi Cultural Institution to sensitize the community against destroying sugarcane plantations.

For three years, the factory has been suffering devastating fires. Last year it lost 7,300 acres of already matured sugarcane plantations in Atiak sub county.

Abdi Mahmood, the Director of Agriculture and Plantation at the factory says that the damages on its sugarcane plantation due to the mysterious fires last year are valued at 33 Billion Shillings.

The factory authorities and the police in the Aswa River region attribute the fires to disgruntled members of the community neighbouring the plantation area, ill intentions, non-payment of the casual workers, and land disputes.

The factory and the sugarcane out-growers associations are now calling on the Acholi Cultural Institution (Ker Kwaro Acholi) through its structures to create awareness among the people as well mediate between the aggrieved people and the factory.

Joyce Laker, the chairperson Atiak Out Growers Cooperative says that the persistent fire outbreaks have also affected the payment of its members since all the sugarcane which were grown were destroyed in the fire and not sold.

She appealed to the Acholi Cultural Institution (Ker Kwaro Acholi) to intervene and sensitize the people on the importance of the project and also ask them to desist from setting the sugarcane plantations ablaze in case of any grievances.

She added that an engagement between the Chief of Atiak Cultural Institution where the factory and the sugarcane plantations are located seeking to mediate the factory as well as the Acholi Cultural Institutions have been made.

Norbert Mao, the Chairperson Gem-Pacilo Sugarcane Out-growers’ association also pleaded with members of the community and the cultural leadership to embrace the investment and jealously protect it noting that it is beneficial to the Acholi community as a whole.

Ambrose Olaa, the Paramount Chief of the Acholi Chiefdom says that the concerns by the aggrieved community especially over the land ownership, leadership of the factory, and payment of casual labourers dues were made to their offices but they could not intervene since authorities of the factory had not directly contacted them.

He said that they are open to mediate the conflicting parties but did not disclose when and how they will engage the aggrieved people and the factory leadership to ensure that the problems are solved.

Currently, the factory ferries cane from Jinja district for the production of sugar because all its available sugarcane plantations have over the years been destroyed by fires.

Mahmood says that the factory has a sugarcane crushing capacity of 1,650 tons daily but due to the challenges, it has only been able to crush 250,764 tons since it started sugar production in 2020. This means that the factory has only been able to utilize 42% of its production capacity.

Atiak sugar factory greatly relies on sugarcane which is produced by a team of 4,070 out-growers drawn from Amuru, Gulu, Lamwo and Adjumani district for its sugar production.

Atiak sugar factory is a subsidiary of Horyal Investment Holdings Company Limited. It was established in 2016 and is owned by a Kenyan businesswoman, Dr Amina Hersi.

The factory covers up to 27,000 acres of land in Atiak sub county, Amuru district which was leased by the family of John Omaya.

The government through Uganda Development Corporation,owns a 40 percent stake in the project even after investing more than Shilling 101 billion.

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