Barely two weeks after the long awaited sugar production at Atiak Sugar factory in Amuru district kicked off, the factory is already facing a supply shortage of sugar cane.
According to Amina Moghe Hersi, of Haryal investment Holdings Limited, a co-owner of the project together with government, sugar production at the plant is being affected by limited cane to feed the factory.
In 2016, more than 4,000 outgrowers were contracted from the districts of Amuru, Lamwo, Gulu and Adjumani to grow and sell cane for five years to Atiak Sugar Factory. Through this project, government hoped to improve the livelihoods of the outgrowers, majority of whom are
formerly abducted persons, persons with disabilities, nodding disease syndrome households, former sex workers and HIV/AIDS positive persons.
Acholi sub region, where the factory is located, has no history of sugarcane growing for purposes of sugar processing. As such, the entire inputs supply chain had to be instituted from scratch.
To assist in this endeavour, government invested Shs 25b in helping farmers open up over 23,841 acres for sugarcane plantation in Amuru and Lamwo districts through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme..
In an interview Hersi said the operations started well but the challenge is where to get the cane to feed the factory.
“The cane from our out growers will be ready by January next year. Since we have started production, we do not want any setback; that is why we are reaching out to other out growers in Busoga region to supply Atiak factory,’’ she said
“In total there has been cane production of 1600 tonnes from 29th July to 6th of this month [August]. As we talk, we have already seen the grains of sugar. The only thing that we need is continued availability of cane.”
The investor says the factory needs 1,650 tonnes of cane every 24hrs and is now seeking help from government to ensure that production continues until the locally grown cane reaches maturity.
“Since there is abundant cane available in Busoga region, the government should see how to support the Atiak Sugar Project so that this cane can reach the factory in Atiak,” Hersi said.
Meanwhile, Isa Budhugo, Busoga Region Sugarcane Outgrowers’ Association Chairperson, said they are willing to sell their cane to Atiak Sugar Factory at Shs 170,000 a tonne, cutting, loading and transport costs to the site inclusive. Within Busoga region, a tonne of cane goes for Shs 99,000 from the out growers.
“We are in talks with Ms Amina to see how best we can reach an understanding. Government had also promised to look into the matter so that the Shs 70,000, on each tonne is covered by government,“ he revealed.
Yudaya Kadondi, Senior Economist at Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), confirmed that government is looking into ways of supporting the project and talks are already underway.
Last year, the out growers were protesting delays in the start of operations at the factory, saying that their sugarcane had matured.