UDC on the spot over stalled Nwoya project

Members of  Parliament during a tour of the Nwoya Fruit Factory in Nwoya District on June 19. The lawmakers have turned their guns on the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) following the stalling of Delight Uganda Limited’s Nwoya Fruit factory.  Photo / Arthur Arnold Wadero

What you need to know:

  • Led by Ms Catherine Lamwaka (Omoro Woman), the lawmakers accuse UDC’s top brass of sabotaging a project that was sanctioned by the government nearly four years ago.

Lawmakers have turned their guns on the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) following the stalling of Delight Uganda Limited’s Nwoya Fruit factory.

Led by Ms Catherine Lamwaka (Omoro Woman), the lawmakers accuse UDC’s top brass of sabotaging a project that was sanctioned by the government nearly four years ago.

This follows a development that saw nearly 18,000 fruit farmers in the eight sub-counties of Nwoya District as well as those in the surrounding districts vent their anger over the stalled project.

Mr Christopher Omara, the Nwoya Resident District Resident Commissioner (RDC), told the lawmakers, who made an on-site inspection of the fruit factory a fortnight ago, that the UDC administration is culpable.

“They don’t consider presidential directives as important,” Mr Omara said, adding, “I strongly suggest and advise the committee to investigate UDC to find out whether there is something related to sabotage. Is it about discrimination that this factory is going to be put in Nwoya in northern Uganda?”

Consequently, Ms Susan Ameru (Amuria Woman) has made clear the lawmakers’ desire to instruct the UDC top brass “to avail all the necessary documentation that attracted them to bring us here.”

She added: “I look at it as a problem, and it is sabotage on the side of the government… You people, the technical, you have become a problem to us, everywhere we go, you are the ones letting us down. You get money in lump sum and give it to sleeping industries and then you leave something that is alive. What kind of lenses do you use?”


Bitterness

Ms Ameru was drawing parallels with Atiak Sugar Works Limited, which has since suspended production because of insufficient supply of the raw material needed for sugar production. Other lawmakers also joined her in expressing their distress over the fact that home-grown investors don’t get the preferential treatment that the government lavishes on their foreign opposite numbers in form of tax holidays and other sweeteners.

“We want to make recommendations on the floor of the House that if some of these [UDC] members need to be sent out or interdicted, [then] it is high time we wake up,” Ms Ameru said.

The stalling of the fruit factory project has left many farmers and residents in Nwoya enraged. Mr Vincent Prince Langole, one of the farmers, is bitter that a chunk of his savings—collated after several years of working as a statistician in Nigeria—have dried up.

Mr Langole said he annually spends at least Shs80,000 (spraying); Shs240,000 (weeding); and Shs200,000 (pruning) on tending to his 20-acre farm. He added that mango trees that have matured are no longer amenable to intercropping. Taken together, the perfect storm of problems he is having to grapple with make his attempt at fruit farming a resounding failure. He said his countenance will improve if the government offers to cover his losses.

“They are the ones who invited us to plant those trees, which cost billions of money. Is it going to be a waste for the government to just throw away this money and begin to chop these trees into charcoal?” Mr Langole wondered, adding, “If the factory is not coming, can the government compensate us for the time we lost because we have become very poor. We hardly can afford something to eat also because money has to go in maintaining those trees.”

Ms Julian Adyeri Omalla, the proprietor of Delight Uganda Limited and private investor on the project, said the years she has spent pushing for the factory have drained her in every way and manner possible.

Delight Uganda Limited, the makers of Cheers Juice, was identified as a private player in a partnership with the government to establish a factory in Nwoya District. The National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) and Ministry of Agriculture were meant to support the primary production while the Uganda Development Cooperation meant to support the establishment of the factory.

Seated on 1,700 acres in Lungulu Sub-county, Nwoya District, the factory was supposed to be constructed under a cost sharing arrangement between government and the investor. In the deal, the government is meant to provide nearly 50 percent of the funds required.

Thousands of locals were trained on how to do the farming in the run-up to establishing the factory. The training, which included grafting, orchard management and value addition, has since seen nearly 18,000 farmers commit their land to fruit growing.

Additionally, the government through Naads gave thousands of the trained farmers with seedlings that were planted in huge numbers. This has since morphed into a burden, eating into the farmers’ meagre resources.

The farm has a fruit garden cover of 1,300 acres, and it is anticipated to produce about 12 metric tonnes of mangoes, four metric tonnes of oranges, and four metric tonnes of guavas each hour.


udc responds

Mr Andrew Mugerwa, the UDC director of investment, told Saturday Monitor that the delays were due to the absence of power and water at the site.

“We want to garner more support from other agencies so that the establishment of this fruit factory does not appear wanting,” Mr Mugerwa said, adding, “The question of energy came up during our studies and we need government support to bring electricity here such that this factory reduces on relying on fuel.”

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