Horyal Investment Company through their affiliate company Atiak Sugar Ltd seeks to mechanize sugar production at the factory after losing a total of Shs 33 billion worth of sugar due to the limited labour force.
Between 27th and 31st December 2020, the factory lost 7,300 acres of sugar cane ready for harvest and transportation to the crushing site due to minimal labour at the various blocks of sugar plantations.
Despite having more than 6,000 sugar cane out-growers; the company has less than 2000 casual labourers working at the factory to cut and help in transportation of canes to the crushing site.
Speaking during an investment forum organized by Acholi Parliamentary Group [APG] held at Vila Kazi, in Got Apwoyo Sub County, Nwoya district. Mohamoud Abdi Mohamed, the Agricultural Director, Atiak Sugar says despite building residential units for labourers to work within the factory, few people have shown interest to be recruited at the factory.
He says they currently crush around 1.2 tons of cane but need at least 5000 casual labourers to cut canes to meet the 1600 tons of cane cuttings per day. Mohamoud says that having lost canes worth Shs 33 billion, they want to move to mechanized farming which will see them crushing at least 1600 tons of cane with 1500 labourers.
According to Mohamoud, they also need to import high performing machines such as 600 power horse tractors other than the current 75 power horse tractors. He further said, they also want to build a railway of 52 km to ease transportation of cane to the crushing sites.
“The current machines like tractors for example in Uganda have very low output. We have 75 horsepower tractors yet we need 600 horsepower tractors for effectiveness. We also want to build railways which would be able to boost the transportation of canes from the plantations to the crushing site,” Mohamoud explained.
“We also want to put an irrigation machine so that we can have a constant plantation of sugar meaning we won’t have a shortage of supply to the factory,” Mohamoud adds.
Mohamoud also observes that they also want to put up irrigation schemes along River Unyama which has often burst its banks affecting plantations as well flooding in Elegu Town Council.
Joyce Laker, the Chairperson, Atiak Sugar Outgrowers Cooperatives Society says, several of her members have complained of distance from their homes as well as other responsibilities as the major reason why they are not actively participating in working at the sugar plantations.
Recently, the government through National Agricultural Advisory Services [NAADs] gave Shs 3 billion to support the out-growers to prepare and plant sugar cane in their block plantations which saw sugar cane worth 2 billion tonnes ready for cutting and production.
According to Laker, even if the company recruited more than 8000 casual workers to cut canes at the plantations, it would still take a lot of time and not reduce the risk of fire outbreaks which has already cost them huge sums of money. Laker also blames the slow disbursement of funds to the members of the cooperative societies and other workers to the limited man labour.
“Even if more than 8000 casual workers were recruited by the company, they would not still be that very effective because they will also need to rest which will definitely affect the operation of the company,” Laker noted.
Norbert Mao, the Chairperson of Gem Pacilo Cooperative Society, another sugarcane out-grower that has partnered with Atiak Sugar says, there’s a need for leaders within the Sub Region to mobilize human labour to work at the factory. In 2016, the company imported 600 Indian welders to build the factory structures.
Mao says that if supported, Atiak Sugar will need more sugarcanes meaning more people will earn more money through sugar cane plantations.
“If we can support Atiak sugar acquire the machines they want, this will translate into huge cash for the community members because then more people will form cooperative societies and engage in sugar cane plantation and then sell it to the company,” Mao said.
Anthony Akol, the Kilak North Member of Parliament who doubles as the Chairperson of Acholi Parliamentary Group attributes the limited labour at the factory to laziness, especially among the youths.
According to Akol, many youths cry for jobs but when opportunities present themselves, they instead run away on grounds of being overworked and mistreated by their employers. He says several youths have complained to him of mistreatment and lack of payment by the company.
Akol observes that mechanization of sugar production will mean that more skills training should be organized for the interested people.
Atiak Sugar was established in 2016 in Pacilo in Atiak Sub County in Amuru district.