Uganda Sugar Factory not to blame for sugar scarcity
Thursday, 1st September, 2011
The shutdown at Kinyara Sugar has been partly to blamed for the scarcity of sugar in the market, a development which has led unscrupulous retailers and speculators to charge consumers up to sh7,000 per kilogramme.
I request to offer the real picture on the ground
In the past three years, the factory’s crushing or milling capacity has increased from 2,400 to 4,000 tonnes of cane per day. This is a significant increase, but the company aspires to attain even higher capacity, which in turn requires expansion of the nucleus estate in terms of acreage of land brought into cane-growing.
Even then, there will still be room for farmers to expand their own acreage and for new cane farmers to open up new farmlands.
This will lead to growth in terms of tax revenue, dividends for the shareholders, including the Government which still holds a 49% stake in the company. It also means much more money will be injected into the local economy in the Bunyoro sub-region.
All these efforts and consequent development should be viewed as a sign of progress and should be supported.
Our estate has the best road network in the district besides the Masindi-Kafu road. There are even roads that fall under the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) which we help in maintaining by grading from time to time.
This has been helping the community significantly. We shall continue to engage UNRA and all relevant authorities so that outgrowers, transporters and the general public do not suffer due to bad roads.
Arson in cane plantations
We continue to suffer at the hands of mindless arsonists almost every dry season. From December 2010 to March 2011, up to 2,000 hectares of outgrower sugarcane were burnt.
On one occasion in February, fire also spread from an adjoining outgrower cane field into the nucleus estate (the company’s fields), destroying about 600 hectares of cane in just one day.
Though we were not the intended target, we still suffered an enormous loss. Press reports that there was a strike by workers, which led to destruction of cane at Kinyara, are categorically denied.
It seems some instances of arson have been a result of conflicts amongst a few farmers. Bush burning has also been a general problem in the area, destroying not just cane fields but pine forests, cassava and maize plantations as well.
But the district is getting tough on bush burning. Masindi, like northern Uganda, usually experiences rough dry conditions. When this happens, cane, cassava and tree farmers bear the brunt.
Union conflicts have nothing to do with management. However, they pose serious threats to the stability and productivity at the factory. We have taken all efforts, coordinating with the labour ministry and other stakeholders, to sort them out smoothly.
Rationalisation of manpower is a natural process in this era of competitiveness and escalating cost of production.
This process started as early as 2004 even before the company became a part of Rai Group. It is mainly driven by the desire to improve efficiency, productivity and profitability. Before the current management came in, the company had already out sourced security services and laid off the security staff. The main reason for retrenchment in majority of the instances is theft. This action again is as per the terms of employment.
By P. V. Ramadasan : The New Vision Newspaper