By Max Patrick Ocaido
PALRIAMENT. Over 200 sugarcane outgrowers from Northern Uganda on Wednesday ‘stormed’ Parliament and petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga over the delay to open Atiak Sugar factory.
Led by Kilak North MP Anthony Akol, the sugarcane outgrowers from the districts of Amuru, Gulu, Adjumani and Lamwo expressed concern over government’s delay to fund Atiak Sugar Factory, thus delaying operations despite farmers’ unyielding efforts to grow sugarcane.
“The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development addressed us in Atiak on July 21st2017 when he explained government’s decision to restart the factory [Atiak] that would be ready in 2018 and fund us to be outgrowers for the factory. It is on this premise and the assurance by the government that we the people of Acholi and Adjumani and in good spirit gave their own land to Horyal Investment Holding Company Limited (Atiak Sugar) for the establishment of a sugar plantation that would be bought by the sugar Mill,” the petition reads.
In their petition, the outgrowers say that whereas government has committed and undertaken to equally develop the entire country and move into a modern economy, they have been left behind, citing the delay to open Atiak factory.
Since the construction of Atiak Sugar factory commenced, over 14,000 acres of land has been cleared by outgrowers of which 4,323 acres have been planted with sugarcane and over 3,900 acres are nearing maturity (9 months old).
“Having shifted from food crop production and invested heavily in sugar cane growing, the outgrowers are worried that the factory will not take off in time to fully absorb and utilize the over 4,000 acres of sugarcane planted,” the petition reads.
Sugarcane has a gestation period of 18 months and although the cane can take 10 more years after its maturity, its value depreciates with time, thus fetching low prices.
“It will be difficult for the people to take government seriously next time other projects are brought to the region if this one of Atiak cannot take off for over 5years, with full support from the community,” the farmers say.
Speaker Kadaga pledged to follow up the matter with the Finance ministry and even Bank of Uganda to ensure that funds are released to facilitate the opening of Atiak Sugar factory that is owned by city businesswoman Amina Hersi.
“We are now working on sustainable development goals where no one must be left behind. I am aware of the project and I am surprised that money is not available because I called the minister of Finance and told him to release the money. So, I am going to call the minister again including the governor, Bank of Uganda to ensure that this factory opens in due course,” Kadaga said.
In July 2017, government committed to pay off the debts of businesswoman Amina to enable her complete the construction her factory in Amuru. Amina was reportedly burdened with a Shs49 billion debt that accumulated from her financial dealings with the defunct Crane Bank.