Two factories, both being supported by Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), the government’s investment and development arm, share similar aspirations and frustration.
Given the notable progress thus far, the two processing plants —Soroti Fruit Factory based in eastern Uganda and Atiak Sugar Factory located in the northern part of the country, will eventually see the much-deserved light at the end of tunnel.
But until then, the two factories are still work in progress.
According to the trade, industry and cooperative minister, Amelia Kyambadde, Soroti Fruit Factory will be commissioned before the end of the year by President Museveni.
And as for Atiak Sugar Factory, the first phase should be up and running by next year in April, according to the main investor of the project, Horyal Investment Holdings Company (HIHC).
Just this year, in a move to promote industrialisation in northern Uganda, the government through UDC bought 32 percent shares into Atiak Sugar Factory, which is an equivalent of about Shs62 billion. It further emerged that approximately the total cost of the three phase project will be about Shs893 billion. The first phase is expected to be done and dusted next year in April. At this point, the factory will be in position to produce sugar, power and molasses which will be marketed for domestic and regional consumption.
Why it stalled
In an interview with the director of HIHC, Mr Muhammad Ahmed recently after the tour of factory by Ms Kyambadde, it emerged that laborious government bureaucracy is partly to blame for the project’s one and half years delay.
He said: “Government took long to agree on financing. There were also numerous due diligence done by several government agencies. All that took time.”
He continued: “But all that is now behind us. In April next year, we will start operation. We are receiving equipment from India and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has promised to clear them really fast once they reach here. On our side we are ready to go.”
Importantly perhaps, following the government delay, billions of shillings in currency exchange rates has been lost. The loses according to both Mr Ahmed and the Ms Amina Hersi Moghe needs to be topped up by the government or else it could have an impact on the flow of project, which is already one and half years late.
In her remarks after the tour of the factory currently under construction, Ms Kyambadde said: “Not until I came here, I didn’t know about some of the challenges including the project cost that has been lost in exchange rate. Now I understand why Ms Hersi is so emotional about this project.”
She continued: “I promise you that I will be in this journey with you until the end. Government is playing a role in supporting this project and we will do our part as we promised.”
HIHC embarked on the Atiak Sugar project in 2013. The first phase of the project involves the establishment of a Greenfield sugar factory with a crushing capacitry of 1,650 tonnes per day and a sugar cane plantation of 7,000 hectares as a nucleus estate and 8000 hectares by the independent sugar cane farmers (8057 household of out-growers).
Once operation begins, and having learnt the hard lesson being experienced in sugarcane growing sub region of Busoga, the life of people of Atiak may never be the same again as it could change for the better. Atiak bears the brunt of war and pain. It was within the vicinity in that the Atiak massacre occurred on April 20, 1995.
Now, an area that was once depopulated and reduced into a desolate heap as a result of the 20-year old war between the government and the Joseph Kony-led rebel group, Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), that operated in northern Uganda, is opening another chapter in their history.
“One day, when the factory is finished, it will speak for itself,” Mr Norbert Mao, the president of Democratic Party and a renowned leader in northern Uganda said in his remarks.
According to the Atiak Sugar Project document, the factory will buy a tonne at Shs120,000 resulting into a profit of Shs3.6 million per acre.
Soroti Fruit Factory
Before proceeding to Atiak, Ms Kyambadde made a stopover at Soroti Fruit Factory where she delivered 144 spray pumps to fruit farmers in fulfilment of an earlier pledge. She also inaugurated the board of Soroti Fruits Ltd, the company that will manage the factory when government hands over facility.
She said: “After independence celebrations in October, we will commission the factory. The President himself will be here to commission the factory.”
Already the fruit farmers cannot wait for the factory whose total cost is about Shs48billion to begin operation. Many when interviewed said the fruits are rotting in the garden yet they planted them for processing in the factory. As a result they are selling their produce to whoever cares to buy, some come all the way from Kenya to buy them at takeaway prices.
The construction of the factory began in April 2015 and was scheduled to be completed in May 2016. And the factory was planned to begin commercial operation in November 2016. The plan now is to have it start operation either before the end of this month or if not before the close of the year.
The fruit processing plant is an initiative of the government, with the assistance of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), working in partnership with the Teso Tropical Fruit Growers Cooperative Union (TETFGCU). The trio decided to establish a fruit processing factory in Soroti District to take advantage of the abundant citrus crop in the Teso sub-region and the high yield per tree.