Kakira Sugar Limited says it has reduced on its dependence on out growers for the next six days after suspected arsonists set 750 acres of their plantation on fire, destroying 26,000 tonnes of raw cane worth Shs3.5 billion.
The incident comes after a suspected scrap thief only identified as Batista was on Sunday allegedly shot dead by a security guard from Industrial Security Services, a subsidiary of the Madhvani Group.
The Jinja police community liaison officer Willy Mpanuha confirmed the incident while the Kakira Town Council LC3 Chairman, Mr Charles Kabule, condemned the act, saying there was no need to shoot the suspect since he had no firearm.
However, since then, unidentified arsonists have reportedly been carrying out what authorities suspect to be revenge attacks on the company’s vast sugarcane plantation located in Kakira Town Council, Jinja District in eastern Uganda.
The attacks on the plantation, according to company officials, started on Sunday and have been going on until Wednesday when the last attack is said to have taken place.
When this reporter visited the factory on Wednesday afternoon, several acres of cane had been destroyed, while workers were seen harvesting what had been destroyed by the fire.
The company’s agriculture manager, Mr Samuel Chidoma, on Wednesday said the company’s operations, which take a lot of planning and logistics, have been interrupted.
“Most of the cane that was burnt was young and immature; what this means is that the sugar content and level is low in such cane but we still have to salvage the best we can,” he said.
Adding: “Once cane has been burnt, it deteriorates very fast; so we must cut and deliver 27,000 tonnes of cane in six days because beyond that, we will have to throw the cane away which will be a big loss.”
“For now, we have decided to scale down on the amount of cane from out growers. Normally, they deliver plus or minus 6,000 tonnes of cane per day, but we have scaled it down to 2,000 tonnes which is an unfortunate loss to the farmers for the next six days,” he explained.
According to Mr Chidoma, they currently lack capacity to bring on 7,000 tonnes entirely from the burnt cane.
“So what the company is doing is to bring in 4,000 tonnes of the burnt cane per day and supplement the balance with 2,000 of out growers’ cane,” he said.
The managing director, Mr Mayur Madhvani, said of the shooting incident: “It was sad for us because it was as a result of a misunderstanding between a young man living near us and some of the security guards.”
He added: “I think he was trying to tamper with some equipment and trying to steal small things but the security guard reprimanded him but unfortunately the incident developed into a shooting.”
According to Mr Madhvani, now that several acres of the vast plantation have been destroyed, farmers will have to deliver less to the factory.
“Before, we were crushing 750 trucks of cane per day; but now we have to stop that coz we have to salvage as much as we can,” he added.