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Fire Razes 40 Acres Of Cane In Masindi

MASINDI –The 40 acres of sugarcane razed by fire is a huge jolt to farmers on Kihonda farm in Labongo Sub County, Masindi District.

Speaking to theCooperator, the farmers said the fire started at around 2 pm last Saturday.

"The fire was caused by one of the sugarcane farmers burning trash in his own garden. In the process the wind blew the fire and it crossed into other sugarcane plantations," the farmers said.

Kanaginagi Ateenyi, the chairman of Northern Zone Sugarcane Out-growers, said they tried and failed to put out the fire.

"The burnt cane fields were more than ready for harvesting. I am therefore calling upon Kinyara Sugar Limited to come to our rescue because our cane was due for harvesting," Kanaginagi said.

James Balikurungi, the LC-III chairman of Labongo Sub County, urged Kinyara Sugar Limited to buy the burnt cane to enable farmers pay their loans.

The farmers however, blamed Kinyara for delaying to harvest their cane.

"Our cane was overgrown. It was between 24 and 26 months and yet the mandatory months for harvesting is 18 months. Delayed harvesting is also causing us problems," the farmers said.

During the dry spell, which ended in March, farmers lost over 1000 hectares of cane to fires.

Kinyara Sugar Limited has severally claimed delays in harvesting cane have been brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak and restrictions on transport and crowds.

Interviewed for a comment, Richard Wanok, the communications manager of Kinyara Sugar Limited, said the farmers’ allegations are false and illogical. 

"The fundamental issue is a collective effort in prevention of the fires as opposed to misleading statements. Cane fires affect all categories of cane whether old or young and the consequences of this practice are not only a danger to the livelihoods of the community but also distort our already planned harvesting schedules and operations causing delays," Wanok noted.

He urged the entire community to be vigilant and desist from practices that could cause fires. 

"We also call upon law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to book," he said.

He said the company is already in touch with the out-growers’ office.

"It is important to note that the financial year closes this month and harvesting of new fields was suspended last week to allow the teams concentrate on clearing already commenced cane harvesting, which covers approximately 500 hectares before the new financial year starts," he said in a statement.

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