President Museveni has said sugarcane prices will continue going down because “there is nothing government can do” and advised millers to grow their own sugarcane.
Mr Museveni was on Wednesday evening addressing journalists from Busoga Sub-region at Jinja State Lodge as part of his countrywide wealth creation tour.
The President’s declaration follows a drop in sugarcane prices from Shs128,000 to Shs120,000 per tonne.
Sugar prices have also fallen from Shs185,000 per 50 kilogramme bag of sugar in March 2018 to the current Shs131,000.
With retail prices of sugar in some parts of Jinja District also reducing to Shs3,000 from Shs3,500 per kilogramme during the same period, the President said: “Sugar prices will continue going down, there is nothing we can do. I am still looking after Ankole cows, they don’t pay well but when I sell them in big numbers, I get good money.”
He also wondered why sugar millers do not grow their own sugarcane.
“I have always told Madhvani (Kakira Sugar Limited managing director) to grow his own sugarcane and leave these out growers,” he said.
Mr Museveni’s advice comes after sugarcane farmers in the sub-region defied a directive from the Trade and Industry minister, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, barring them from exporting their sugarcane to the neighbouring countries.
The minister rejected the move on grounds that the country’s exportation policy limits selling raw materials of locally manufactured goods to foreigners, adding that the plan would hamper industrial growth.
However, the farmers, through their representatives, Busoga Sugarcane Outgrowers Association (BUSGA), on June 29 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to supply their sugarcane to Olepito Sugar Company Limited, in Kenya at Shs150,000 (Kshs4,055) per tonne.
The agreement became effective on June 29. They also agreed to supply 600 tonnes of sugarcane to Olepito Sugar Unit on daily basis.
The spokesperson of BUSGA, Mr Godfrey Naitema, said they have decided to start exporting sugarcane because the available sugar factories have failed to consume all the cane and they are now drying in gardens.
The prices have dropped at a time when Parliament is yet to resume debate on the Sugar Bill that was re-introduced on the floor of the House by government after President Museveni refused to assent to it in April on grounds that “it does not favour concerns of the big manufacturers”.
Statistics obtained from the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association (USMA) indicate that Uganda exported 66,000 metric tonnes in 2016 and 30,900 metric tonnes of sugar in 2017, with sugar worth $25m (about Shs92 billion) being held at different companies accumulating more than a six-month period.
Mr Museveni also urged the people of Busoga to reduce subsistence farming and adopt commercialised farming, saying about 68 per cent of Uganda produce for subsistence.
“Nobody tells me what to do because I know what to do, but people in the village need assistance,” he said.
Mr Museveni pointed out coffee, fruits, food for the family, pasture for zero grazing, poultry for eggs, pigs and fish farming as the only viable activities to drive people of Busoga out of poverty.
“I have not mentioned sugarcanes because they need large acreage. Growing sugarcane on little acreage is simply preserving poverty,” he said.
According to Mr Museveni, sugarcane should be grown by someone with at least six acres of land.
“Sugarcanes take 18 months (almost two years) to be ready, and if it is grown on small acreage, one earns about Shs2m. When you deduct costs you are left with Shs1m. But with 10 acre or more, the returns are much bigger,” he said.
Njeru mass eviction
The President also promised to dispatch a team to investigate a land wrangle in Njeru Municipality, Buikwe District between two family members threatening to evict 10 villages (about 4,000 people) including factories, Njeru Police Station and Njeru Municipality headquarters.