Power outages crippling Okoro Coffee Union revival

Mr Chrisanto Odaga, the cooperative development officer at Ayuda Coffee Factory, shows the machines which are lying idle as a result of unreliable power supply. PHOTO | CLEMENT ALUMA

What you need to know:

  • In an interview with this publication, the leadership of Okoro Coffee Union said the power shortage has renders their machines idle, painting a grim picture on the revival of the union success. 

The revival of Okoro Coffee Union factory at Ayuda in Zombo District has been thrown into limbo due to the insufficient power supply at the factory.

The new management at the coffee union is implementing plans to start processing coffee at the factory after they received new machines and repaired the old ones.

But according to the management, the processing of coffee is being hampered by inadequate power supply.

They fear that the machines that have been newly-fitted need uninterrupted power during operation. And when there is intermittent power, it may cause their breakdown.

Speaking to the this publication on Monday, the general manager of the union, Mr Gilbert Wachal, said in the event that the power is not sufficient, the operation cannot go on.

“Our hope was that when the government extended the programme of rural electrification, it would solve our problem, but this has not been the case. The power is on and off for several hours,” he said.

While providing alternative means of processing the coffee, Mr Wachal said: “As I talk now, we are loading our coffee to be transported for hauling in Kampala. We cannot risk here when the power is unstable, it will destroy the heavy machine that we have just revived.”

The union operates a machine in Paidha Town Council that hauls the coffee into green beans, and grades it into different grades for export. The union has generators, but the management says it is expensive to run a factory on generators. 

Mr Wachal said if they use generators, they spend more than Shs1 million for fuel for a short period of time because the machines are heavy.

The union has more than 8,000 farmers stretching from Logiri Sub-county in Arua District to Oboth in Erussi Sub-county in Nebbi District. 

The union generates an annual production of coffee ranging between 10,000 to 15,000 metric tonnes.

The union, which recently got a deal to export their coffee to the United Arab Emirates, loses about Shs5 million or more in charges of transportation and other expenses to Kampala.

Mr Chrisanto Odaga, the cooperative development officer at Ayuda Coffee Factory, said with unreliable power, they would have needed an alternative source of power, but it would be uneconomical to use the generator which consumes a lot of fuel.

“If we begin the process and the power goes off, the quality will be affected because it will remain locked in the darkness and the grade will be affected. We are crying for the connection to the national grid and reliable power so that we can make coffee a profitable venture,” Mr Odaga said. It is not only Okoro Coffee Union that is faced with intermittent power supply. Recently, some of the factories that opened operations in West Nile, closed due to intermittent power supply and other related costs. The factories incurred losses due to operating on alternative power source generators.

They include Agu Mineral Water Processing Plant in Zombo District, Juice Processing factory in Arua District, Malaika Mineral Water and Bread Factory and Beef Processing Factory in Mvara Ward Arua City, and Nile Foam Mattress Factory in Arua City, among others.

The supplier of electricity, West Nile Rural Electrification Company (WENRECO), has issued back-and-forth statements on grounds that they are having technical problems.

While offering an explanation to the power supply, the regional manager for WENRECO, Mr Kenneth Kigumba, said sometimes they have no alternatives when they have no power at the source.

“The power we supply is not fully generated by us, but also Electromaxx. But even if it did, the service is susceptible to failure due to calamities beyond the control of the service provider. Drunkards knock poles down every day and interrupt supply. Who should be culpable for service failure?” he asked.

Uganda Electricity Transmission Company recently extended a 33kv power line to be added onto the available power supplied by WENRECO, but the power consumers want a stable power that could attract investors.

Due to high demand since the operation of the 3.5-megawatt power dam at Nyagak, several investors were attracted to carry out investments in the region, but their efforts were bogged down due to the high demand for power but less supply.


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