Busoga farmers seek Shs1.3b for cane supplied to Atiak Sugar Factory

A man carrying sugarcane while loading a truck in Jinja City on February 26, 2024. PHOTO/TAUSI NAKATO

Farmers in Busoga sub-region are seeking Shs1.3billion from government for sugarcane they supplied to Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District, Northern Uganda.

The farmers, under the Greater Busoga Sugarcane growers Union (GBSGU), in December 2020, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Atiak Sugar Factory to supply 1,500 tonnes of cane every day for six months.

Under the arrangement, government pledged to intervene by subsidising transport costs- and also avail fuel trucks to ferry the cane.

The first consignment of 50 sugarcane trucks was on January 11, 2021 flagged off by Busoga Bishop Paul Moses Samson Naimanhye.

But three years down the road, GBSGU chairperson Godfrey Biriwali says they are demanding government Shs1.3billion.

“Close to 4,000 farmers supplied the sugarcane to Atiak Sugar Factory but the government paid for the first and second phase, but not for the third phase which has affected over 1,000 farmers,” he told Monitor on Monday.

He added: “We have been engaging the government, through the Minister of Finance (Mr Matia Kasaija), but we were told that the Uganda Development Cooperation (UDC) is finalising the farmers’ verification exercise.”

The UDC is a government agency that promotes and facilitates the country’s industrial and economic development. Some of its notable projects include the Atiak Sugar Factory, Soroti Fruit Factory and Bukona Agro Processors, among others.

Busoga Sub-region sugarcane farmer Godfrey Naitema said: “Some of my colleagues who supplied sugarcanes to Atiak Sugar Factory are still demanding, and I ask the government to clear them because they incurred more expenses in production costs.”  

Sowedi Tenywa, another farmer claimed the Atiak Sugar Factory deal was “not profitable because of the long distance involved, and inadequate vehicles to carry the sugarcanes to Northern Uganda.

“I supplied at the beginning, but later stopped,” he noted.

Farmers who were taking their sugarcane to Atiak Sugar Factory and Olepita Sugar Factory in Western Kenya previously told Monitor that they had reached the decision due to frustration over lack of market and price fluctuation.

At the time (early 2020), the price of sugarcane was between Shs96,000 per tonen, while in Kenya, it was at Shs150,000 per tonne.Currently, the price of sugarcane is between Shs175,000 and Shs190,000 per tonne, down from Shs240,000 per tonne in December last year.

About Atiak

Atiak Sugar Factory, a joint venture between the government and Amina Hershi, trading under Horyal Investment Limited. It was launched by President Museveni on October 22, 2020.

But in 2022, it stopped production due to shortage of cane which occurred after over 300,000 tons of sugarcanes were destroyed in December 2021, following a fire outbreak in Atiak sub-county.