Sugarcane industry needs regulation, not more land

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Sugar industry. 
  • Our view:  What we need to fix the challenges of the sugar industry is rigorous implem-entation of the provisions of the 2020 Sugar Act. 

Last week, President Museveni urged sugar producers to grow their own sugarcane to ensure sustainable supply of sugarcane
This, he said, should ultimately stabilise both production and the price of sugar.
Production at all the country’s sugar mills has in recent times been low because of scarcity of sugarcane due, in part, to a decision by some sugarcane farmers to abandon the activity. 

Research carried out by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPCR) in Busoga, Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions in November and December 2021 revealed that 11,000 households, which had been attracted to cane growing because of the high prices that cane had been attracting between 2006 and 2017, quit the activity because of, among other things, failure to find market for their cane and the fall in prices.
The sum total of the above has been scarcity of sugarcane to feed into the major mills, which has resulted in an increase in the cost of the raw material and the cost of sugar on the market.
The situation does not call for sugar mills to develop their own estates. A move in that direction surely has serious implications for food production, food security and the economy, especially in regard to the fight against poverty and unemployment.

For a start, on which land would the mills grow the cane? On which land would we grow food to ensure ample production and food security if we are to increase the numbers of acres of sugarcane under sugarcane production?
There are thousands of farmers involved in sugarcane production. Encouraging millers to expand their own sugarcane estates threatens the very existence of the sugarcane outgrowers schemes and those that subscribe to them.
Uncertainty around the sugarcane markets has already driven enough farmers out of the industry. 

Urging the millers to grow their own cane will drive even more farmers out, which would spell disaster at a time when we are grappling with a huge unemployment problem.
What we need to fix the challenges of the sugar industry is rigorous implementation of the provisions of the 2020 Sugar Act.
A national sugar board to oversee and regulate the sugar industry should have by now been in play, especially in regard to licensing and establishing sugarcane growing zones of each of the mills. 
That, and not increasing the acres of land under cane, is the way to go.