KAMPALA- Members of the Uganda Sugarcane Manufacturers’ Association (USMA) have decried the legislature’s failure to enact a Sugar Bill.
USMA constitutes the three biggest sugar producers in Uganda, namely: Kakira Sugar, Kinyara Sugar and the Lugazi based Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul).
The Sugar Bill is meant to, among other things; redefine the procedures that Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and the Ministry of Trade should follow in licensing new players in the sector.
The Bill should also determine where new operators can set up base without disrupting the operations of existing players.
The draft Bill suggests that a new player cannot be licensed within less than a radius of 25km of an existing factory and that the minimum distance between any two mills should be 50km.
Sugar production has dropped from 438,000 metric tonnes in 2014 to 392,115 metric tonnes in 2016 yet Uganda had more sugar factories in 2016 than in 2014. Uganda currently has 11 operational sugar factories up from eight in 2014.
During the association’s general meeting held in Mukono during the weekend, members blamed the production shortfalls on licensed small operators who work within their zones. This, they say, resulted into a fight for sugarcane which has led to harvesting immature sugarcane. This has translated into a drop in recoveries from the fields to about 65 tonnes per hectare while that at the factories has dropped from 9.2 per cent per tonne to 6 per cent per tonne. The scenario pushed up the price of sugar to Shs175,000 per tonne up from Shs80,000 per tonne. As a result, the cost of sugar production rose, translating into higher retail prices.
Retail prices for the commodity rose from about Shs3,600 in November to about Shs6,000 per kilogramme in December. Although there has been a drop, prices still range between Shs4,500 and Shs5,000 per kilogramme.
The Association’s chairman, Mr Jim Mwine Kabeho says the situation could have been mitigated if the law was enacted.
On May 17, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Mr Julius Onen, told Daily Monitor that he expected the Bill to be passed soon.
“It is before the Parliamentary Committee (on Trade, Tourism and Industry) and it is a priority Bill now. It was submitted to them in November last year. In the next three months, it should be a done deal,” he said.
However, that has not happened.
“Despite the many meetings we have had with government, parliament, ministries, institutions and other sugar stakeholders, we still do not have the Bill,” Mr Mwine Kabeho said.
Members of the Association are scheduled to hold another meeting with MPs on the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry over the bill today (Wednesday).