Museveni directs more funding for banana factory in Bushenyi

BUSHENYI-President Yoweri Museveni in a letter dated October 2022, has directed Finance Minister Matia Kasaija to provide Shs 23 billion for the capitalisation of the Banana Industrial Research & Development Centre [BIRDEC] in Bushenyi district.

Museveni’s director to finance minister Matia Kasaija comes at a time when the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development [PIBID] project, which runs BIRDEC, has been in the spotlight over financial irregularities and poor results since its inception in 2005.

Museveni who is the patron of the banana project says he was informed by the Greater Bushenyi leaders that the communities were concerned as the project was not buying their bananas.

Museveni goes on to explain the project director, Dr. Florence Muranga told the meeting that factory was not taking much bananas from farmers because it was a pilot project with the capacity to consume only 14 tons of bananas per day and that an upgrade was needed to enable the factory process at least 140 ton of banana per day.

“Dr. Florence Muranga informed the meeting that the factory was not taking many bananas because it was a pilot project with a limited processing capacity of only 14 tons of bananas daily,” Museveni says.

He added: “They had plans to expand the capacity of the current factory to utilise 140 tonnes of bananas daily. However, that expansion would require funding to the tune of Shs 60 billion.”

“The meeting was also informed that your Ministry has already planned for Shs.37bn of the required funding leaving a balance of only Shs 23bn and the issue of ownership of the Company that will commercialise the banana innovation,” Museveni said in a letter

He also said that the community in Greater Bushenyi embraced the factory project knowing that they would benefit from it by selling their bananas, which would also give them better income, but this is not forthcoming.

Museveni’s action was also in response to a letter written to him by the Bushenyi district LCV chairperson, Jafari Basajabalaba, who had informed him the factory was lying idle yet farmers were stuck with bananas in gardens.

According to Basajabalaba, major articles in the Memorandum of Understanding made between the Bushenyi district local government and the banana project had been breached.

He mentioned creating market for bananas, value addition and availability of banana products on the market, sensitisation, and formation of cooperative societies, and representation of Bushenyi district local government as some of the articles that were breached.

“Your Excellency, article 4[g] of the MOU was giving Bushenyi District Local Government a mandate to nominate a member to represent it on the Board of Directors. The intention of this was to bridge the gap and foster a smooth coordination of the two parties to realise the steadfast success of the project’s intended purposes.”

He added: “Since its inception, Kiberu Nsubuga who was the then Chief Administrative Officer of Bushenyi has been a permanent member of the Board of Directors, even when he is no longer a CAO of Bushenyi District. This has created a gap in accessing information from PIBID.”

It is against this explanation that Museveni asked the finance ministry to look for a supplementary budget of 23 billion in the 2022/23 financial year so that the factory can take shape and benefit the communities.

“I agree with the community leaders that the government must complete this project quickly so that it can solve the problem of value addition to bananas which is the reason why we set out to establish this project in Bushenyi,” Museveni said in a letter.

He added: “I, therefore, direct that you look for the Shs 23 billion in form of a supplementary so that all the funding for this project is completed this financial year.”

Banana House in Bushenyi district (Photo by Joshua Nahamya).

Museveni also directed the Attorney General to work with Muranga to resolve the issue of ownership of the company. “I need to be briefed about the shareholding between the scientists and government after the Attorney General has concluded discussions with the scientists.”

In 2019, PIBID project was transformed into BIRDC Company limited by guarantee under Company Number 80020002038304 managed by the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation.

The facility is estimated to consume about 53 tonnes of matooke per hectare from the locals in the area. For the last 18 years, the government has so far sunk over Shs 200 bln in the banana project.

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