Sugarcane farmers in Busoga and Bunyoro sub regions have decried the exploitation orchestrated by sugar manufacturing investors and middlemen who have made it a tendency to over depreciate the prices of their produce.
Sugarcane plantations, which spread across tracts of land in Busoga are the economic pulse of the sub-region that holds more than 50 per cent of the country’s milling sugar factories.
However, the persistent poverty in Busoga and other sugarcane growing areas continues to raise questions whether cane cultivation is benefiting farmers.
The farmers say the exploitation has made them incur high losses and many of them have been kicked out of business due to the unfavorable working conditions by the investors who make a big killing from the formers’ economic plight.
To say this, the disgruntled sugarcane farmers where addressing the media during the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED) weekly press conference that took place at the political movement’s headquarters in Kampala on Monday.
Dennis Wambuzi, a sugarcane grower from Jinja narrated to the media that due to the many farmers in the business, the investors buy their output at unimaginable low prices and worse still, they take long to pay for the goods.
The unpredictable market has given rise to ruthless middlemen, who have enforced an extortionist cartel permit system, which has pushed farmers towards the cliff.
Those who buy the sugarcane from the farmers usually pay them as little as Shs60,000 per tonne, Shs36,000 less than the market value.
When the farmers do not sell their sugarcane to the permit brokers, they are compelled to supply their sugarcane to the factory through a permit holder who takes a commission off each trip delivered.The commission off each trip is usually Shs100,000 per trip. With such an exploitative system, many households have been left in a state of abject poverty.
“We have the Sugar and Allied Industry Limited Kaliro, it’s a pain in the neck. They don’t want to pay sugarcane farmers. They can keep you on the waiting list until you get tired. Remember you have to pay workers and transporters who have to take the sugarcanes to the factory. We also have Kamuli Sugar, the same story,” he revealed.
Lennox Mugume, another sugarcane farmer from Masindi in Bunyoro sub region, said,” If your to sell you sugarcane to a factory or company, they first charge you for the seedlings which they never gave you, they then deduct money for fertilizers which they never gave it you. After deducting all that, they then pay for your sugarcane at a very low price.”
They further asked government to keep a tight rein on the exploitative investors if indeed it practices what it preaches as far as economic transformation of Uganda is concerned.
Responding to the farmers submissions, the NEED president Joseph Kabuleta Kizza said sugarcane growing and sugar manufacturing business is a very lucrative one, enjoyed by a few big people in the country at the expense of the poor ordinary farmers.
“Sugarcane growing and sugar manufacturing is President Yoweri Museveni’s private business that’s why he has used it to to make alot of money as well as keeping Ugandans in abject poverty,” Mr Kabuleta said.
“I call upon the so called investors hiding behind Museveni to mistreat Ugandans, I tell you Museveni is not going to stay forever as Uganda’s President. His days as President are numbered. When Museveni is out of power, we want you to be able to look us straight into the eyes without shame because you did nothing wrong to ordinary Ugandans but we are also sure that some of you will not be able to stay in this country peacefully, you shall be chased out of it due to your misdeeds against citizens,” the former presidential candidate added.
Mr Kabuleta also cautioned government against leasing out forest reserves such as Bugoma to investors in the name of growing sugarcane. He said the move is negatively impacting on the environment.
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