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Masindi cane farmers, Kinyara Sugar Works feud deepens

MASINDI, February 1, 2024 - Farmers under their umbrella Masindi Sugarcane Out-grower's Association Limited [MASGAL], and Kinyara Sugar Limited [KSWL] continue to be at loggerheads after the latter cut cane price to Shs 160,000 per tonne from Shs 181000.

The price reduction announced recently by KSWL management forced MASGAL leaders to convene an extraordinary meeting in which the farmers castigated the sugar manufacturer for reducing the price of cane without engaging them.

Following the decrease in the price, the farmers during their meeting retaliated by suspending the supply of their cane to the company that has not had a good working relationship with the farmers over the years.

Further, supported by some of their political leaders, the cane farmers set the price of the cane at Shs 210,000 per tonne, saying if KSWL cannot afford to buy at this price, they will identify other sugar millers willing to buy from them.

They  also resolved that payment for the harvested sugarcane should be made within seven days. They also resolved that MAGAL be a witness on all cane production contracts signed with KSWL.

Among other resolutions included  starting a farmers' sugar factory to avoid being exploited by the private millers who aim at profit maximisation.

Speaking to the farmers, Robert Atugonza, the Chairperson MASGAL promised to ensure that all the resolutions passed are implemented. He urged farmers to cooperate. "We called you here such that we get a consensus and chat a way forward. We have been undermined a lot. Let's be one, we shall achieve," he said.

On his part, Cosmas Byaruhanga, the LCV Chairperson Masindi district urged the cane farmers to be firm, saying they should allow to be intimidated by anyone. We shouldn't be intimidated at all. Let's put all resolutions in writing and communicate to Kinyara Sugar Limited. We have resolved to halt supply of cane until a fair price is reached," he explained.

MASGAL has a membership of over 7,000 farmers who grow cane on 32,000 hectares and supply KSWL  70 percent of the cane.

According to KSWL's Corporate Communications Manager, Aldon Walukamba, the demand for sugarcane has gone down due to increased sugar imports into the country.

"There's too much sugar which has been imported in the country. Reducing cane price is not unique to Kinyara Sugar Works because other manufacturers in Buganda and Busoga sub-regions have done the same. However, we are still giving the most competitive price in the whole of Africa given the subsidized services we offer to farmers," he said.

He disclosed that KSWL  has 13,000 metric tonnes of sugar in stock, adding that the price of a 50 kilogramme bag of the sweetener dropped to Shs 208,000 starting December 2023, from Shs 250,000.

"We remain aware of the fall in the prices of sugar and sugarcane in Uganda and the East African Community. Our interim price of Shs 160,000 per tonne is the best offer for a farmer in this country at this time. We will uphold that interim price until the end of the financial year when the final price will be announced," said Walukamba.

The sugarcane sub-sector in Uganda is currently regulated under the 2010 National Sugar Policy and the Sugar Act, 2020 and according to industry experts, these regulations have hardly mainstreamed the operations of the sub-sector, leaving a broken relationship between powerful millers and powerless farmers.

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