President Museveni has called on Parliament to postpone the Sugar Bill and instead have more stakeholder engagements to save the sugar industry, Chimp Corps report.
“Why can’t you wait if things are not clear? Let’s postpone the bill and have more engagements with the stakeholders. There is no way we can fail to discuss with them. Let us be leaders not opportunists using people’s ignorance,” he said.
“The sugar issue can be planned in a good way…let’s wait until things are clear. I am about to have my upcountry tours where I will meet these out growers and talk to them,” he added.
The President was Tuesday addressing the NRM caucus on the sugar industry and why he returned the sugar bill to parliament at a meeting held at the OPM conference Hall in Kampala.
The President said that there is need for more research, consultations and engagements with the different stakeholders to come to an agreed solution.
The President rushed to meet NRM MPs who form majority in Parliament ahead of today’s plenary session.
The Bill was passed by Parliament in November 2018 and sent to the President for assenting but Museveni rejected the Bill and returned it to the house asking legislators to reconsider and provide zoning of sugar cane growing and production.
President Museveni refused to assent to the bill saying that the lack of zoning is killing the sugar industry in Uganda, as small new companies undermine the big historical players.
Sugar cane farmers and MPs are against zoning, saying it gives investors leverage to monopolize out growers.
The Busoga Kingdom officials on Monday petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga over the contentious Sugar Bill 2016.
The officials led by their Prime Minister, Owek Dr. Joseph Muvawala strongly rejected the proposal by President to introduce some clauses in favor of investors owning manufacturing mills.
Zoning implies that farmers within a certain prescribed location should only sell their cane to the factory or mill in that particular locality.
Muvawala told the Speaker that the arguments by sugar investors that zoning will increase supply is not true since much sugar cane is being supplied by the out growers to factories.
However, Museveni told MPs today that he could not sign on the sugar bill and kill the sugar industry until they were clear deliberations on the matter.
The President urged the legislators against mishandling the private sector, which creates wealth for the country.
“You have no power if you don’t work with the private sector. Government only needs to do three things; maintain peace, develop infrastructure and get rid of corruption. When discussing sugar, let nobody come and ‘box’ you. Don’t be influenced by nyamnyam. Only listen to public interest,” he said.
The President informed the caucus that people who have less than 6 acres of land should refrain from growing sugarcane because it’s a low value crop.
He reiterated that sugarcane growing should be left for those with 10 or more acres of land while those with small pieces of land should embrace the four-acre model and engage in enterprises such as coffee, fruits, pasture for zero growing, food crop, piggery, poultry and fish farming.
“We should not complicate the sugar zoning policy. I told the sugar people to grow their own sugar and not depend on small out growers. If they must depend on the out growers, then it must be from the large and medium out growers,” he advised.
President Museveni warned that if the sugar industries in Uganda cannot produce to their full capacity, it would make the investors operate in losses, which will eventually lead to the collapse of the industry.
“I hear Kenya and Tanzania are now importing sugar because their industries collapsed. Our sugar factories all together have a capacity of 605,000 tones but right now they are producing less. If we consume 400,000 tones of sugar, then we can export the 200,000.
In the Bill aimed at regulating the sugar industry, Government had proposed a zone of 25km between mills with no more than one mill in that zone and out-growers in that area only supplying sugarcane to the mill.
Kadaga yesterday said the Bill should not be rushed and emphatically stated that zoning is not being done in areas producing milk, beef, coffee and others.
“It is my considered view that we should not rush this matter of zoning. When you look at other areas that produce coffee, milk, bananas, all these areas are not zoned,” said Kadaga.
She emphasized that sugar is a major cash crop in Busoga, and Article 40 of the Uganda Constitution stipulates the economic rights of people.
“There’s need for dialogue and understanding. This is about people’s lives and we should move together,” added Kadaga.
On his part, Museveni said he is willing to negotiate with the Indians to consider opening up shares for out growers in the sugar industries as a way of reducing the monopoly.
“My advice is don’t rush. I had to send back the bill. I could not sign the bill and kill where we have gotten now. Stop politics of blindness, you are going to kill the sugar industry if we are not careful. I reject the argument that Indians are cheating us. Why quarrel with them, make own calculations. This is not a mediation, it’s a calculation,” he said.
The President said old investors like Madhvani, Kinyara, Mehta and others are needed to do more for the industry.
“We need refined sugar for beverages, pharmaceuticals etc. Most of these are imported and money is lost. I am still struggling with cassava, nobody is processing starch for Quality Chemicals,” he said.
The President urged members to always work for the public interest as opposed to working for private interests.
“Once you get a chance of leadership, work for God, work for public interest. Don’t bring yourself in public office for personal gain, its kisirani (misfortune).”
The President also used the opportunity to urge leaders to reorganize farming and counter climate change.