Amuru, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Sugarcane growing is expected to resume in the plantation of Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru and Lamwo districts by March, nearly a year after the factory shut down its operations citing a limited supply of canes.
The closure came just a year after the factory owned by Horyal Investment Holding Company Ltd with a 56 percent share and the government (with a 46 percent share) commenced sugar production.
The factory had been grappling with inadequate supplies of canes by out-growers at two sugarcane plantations in Atiak Sub-county and Palabek Gem Sub-county in Amuru and Lamwo districts respectively.
Dr. Patrick Birungi, the Executive Director of Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) said Tuesday that the government was already in the process of procuring equipment meant to mechanize the operation of the factory.
In the 2021/22 financial year, the Parliament approved a supplementary budget of 108 billion Shillings and channeled the fund through UDC to boost the operations of Atiak Sugar Factory. Dr. Birungi however notes that they expect the machines to be on the ground by March adding that immediately, the ploughing of field and planting of cane will commence.
“The purchase of the equipment is ongoing, it hasn’t been delivered because of the procurement timing. We do expect them (Machines) before the end of the first quarter in March,” said Birungi. He said the full reopening of the factory for sugar production will be determined after the sugarcanes mature in 18 months.
“It usually takes about 18 months for the sugarcane to mature, so we expect the cane to be ready in 18 months and that’s when the full-blast reopening of the factory will take place,” he said. The sugar factory was installed with a capacity to crush 1,650 tons of cane per day and about 60,000 metric tons of cane annually.
However, during its operation, the factory has been receiving only 800 tons of cane for crushing, nearly half of what it required from the two plantations. Gilbert Olanya, the KilaK South legislator in Amuru District however faulted the government for the unclear operation of the factory that eventually resulted in its temporary closure.
Olanya says whereas the factory was intended to uplift the socio-economic status of war victims, especially women under cooperatives, its success has been short-lived.
A total of 3,200 out-growers, the majority of them formerly abducted women were mobilized in the past for the sugarcane growing project in the districts of Amuru and Lamwo. But Olanya notes that the majority of the out-growers haven’t received their payments from the government despite billions of Shillings being approved for the cause.
Atiak Sugar factory in the past grappled with losses resulting from successive fire incidences that razed down thousands of hectares of sugarcane plantations. According to the Police annual report of 2020, the factory lost 3 billion Shillings worth of cane to fire outbreaks in 2019.