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Cane farmers make case for amended Sugar Act

A section of sugarcane out growers from Kayunga and Mukono districts interfacing with the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry over escalating sugar prices in the country.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Sugarcane out growers have demanded for expeditious amendment of the Sugar Act, 2020 to include a revised formula on determination of cane price.

A section of farmers from Mukono and Kayunga districts say that exclusion of other cane products such as molasses, carbon dioxide, bagas and plywood, among others in the Act is to blame for the high sugar prices.

The farmers were interfacing with the committee on Wednesday, 16 November 2022, over high sugar prices.

They said that cane costs between Shs190 to Shs200 per kilogramme while the price of sugar ranges between Shs4,500 to Shs5,500 per kilogramme.

The Chairperson, Kayunga Sugarcane Out Growers Cooperative, Edward Mutebi, said that sugar millers agreed to use only sugar to cater for all the costs of production and yet they make profits from other cane products.

“The committee should look into this. Farmers should be able to earn what is commensurate with what the millers earn,” he said.

He added that the law should also be operationalised to regulate the sugar business so that farmers can realise their full potential.

“Millers are exploiting us due the lack of a guiding law. Government should get interested in sugar, just like is the case with coffee, tea and palm trees which are all recent crops,” said Mutebi.

Julius Katerevu, a representative of Mukono Sugarcane Out Growers Co-Operative Society Limited proposed introduction of a Sugar Cane Policy, with an authority to fully cater for sugarcane farmers.

“Government should protect the sugarcane farmers’ and transporters’ investment capital by, among others, setting a minimum price for fresh sugarcanes. Sugarcane price per tonne should be minimally Shs190,000 to recover capital invested,” said Katerevu.

He also accused government of protecting millers, at the expense of farmers, a move he claimed has frustrated cane farmers.

The Commissioner for Industry at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Denis Ainebyoona, who represented the trade minister, Francis Mwebesa, however, blamed the increase in sugar prices to the increased cost of sugarcane, which he said constitutes over 60 percent of the cost of sugar.

“To address this concern, I met with the sugar manufacturers recently and they assured me that they had enough stocks to meet the domestic demand. However, due to scarcity of sugarcane, manufacturers had earlier increased their factory prices from Shs180,000 to Shs215,000 for a 50 kilogramme bag,” said Ainebyoona.

He added that the ministry is carrying out consultations on the proposed amendments to the Sugar Act.

“After studying the law further, we realised that there will be need to introduce other cane products. We are working with the energy ministry to fast-track regulation of ethanol,” he said.

He also clarified that whilst there is no Board as stipulated in the Sugar Act, the ministry issues investors in the sugarcane industry letters of no objection to start up investments.

“The Act requires a full time Executive and there is no budget for that. The ministry is considering amending the law to have a Board without a full time Executive and extend its mandate beyond management of sugar farmers and millers,” said Ainebyoona.

Committee chairperson, Mwine Mpaka, however, said that absence of the Board casts doubt on the legality of the licences issued to investors.

“Why is there no board up to now? Issuance of licences should have been done by the Board,” said Mwine Mpaka.

He added that input of farmers should be considered in the formula to determine the price of cane.

“Farmers should suggest a formula that will work for them,” he said.

The Shadow Minister of Trade, Francis Mwijukye, wondered why the ministry has taken long to introduce amendments to address the plight of farmers.

“We need assurance that the minister is not giving us ‘hot air’ in regard to bringing amendments to the law. They have promised several interventions before but no action has been taken,” Mwijukye said.

Muhamad Ssentayi, Bukoto West MP questioned government’s commitment towards solving challenges of the sugar cane out growers, saying that attention has been given to manufacturers.

“Why is the government not bothered with the challenges faced by farmers? The Commissioner told us that they met millers without farmers. Why did they meet only the millers?” Ssentayi asked.

Central Youth Member of Parliament, Hon. Agnes Kirabo, proposed that the farmers should be managed under the agriculture ministry since the trade ministry is only focused on millers.

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