Sugarcane farmers have asked Government to set up the delayed Sugar Board as a regulator to oversee, monitor and arbitrate disputes in the sugar cane sector.
The board is seen as a way to help get farmers to get out of poverty as sugarcane growing is associated with poverty and food insecurity.
The farmers have said that without a regulator many farmers are being cheated through low prices, refusal to honour contracts set up by sugar factories and mills and under-weighing their sugarcane at mills and factories.
The farmers were responding to a report released by the Economic Policy Research Centre entitled: ‘Revisiting the policy and institutional arrangements affecting sugarcane out-growers and millers in Uganda.
The function took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Wednesday, September 15.
Dr Swaibu Mbowa, a senior research fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre who presented the report explained that the Sugar Act 2020 provides for the setting up of a Sugar Board and producing accompanying regulations for the sector. But neither the act nor the board has been set up to date.
The report notes that over 40,000 households who at one point participated in sugarcane growing between 2005 and 2001, making up 28% of the out-growers, have abandoned sugarcane growing over the years.
They have done so because of reasons such as; lack of market, price decline, attacks by pests and diseases, and replacing cane with food crops.
Mbowa said that the sugarcane growing areas such as Busoga Region have 1.2m persons who are income poor while 400,000 people are living in food insecurity.
The sugarcane industry is one of the critical agro-based industries in Uganda with the potential to contribute to national socio-economic development.
Sugar cane production increased from 1.5m metric tonnes in 2000 to 5.8m metric tonnes in 2020.
The number of active sugar mills has shot up from four in 2005 to 15 to date.
Mbowa noted sugarcane production on land has been expanding by cutting down forests, but productivity on the existing land space is not increasing.
David Kafuko, a sugar cane farmer and technologist from Jinja District said that the farmers can contribute to the board’s annual budget of sh2b.
Kafuko said that sugarcane farmers can pay levies to fund the Board because the benefits of the planned Board are many.
He said the Board can help farmers get insurance against fire, fire-fighting equipment, lobby for graders for road building and maintenance.
He said that farmers are selling immature cane due to poverty but gaining little from it.
David Kiiza, the senior industrial officer at the ministry of trade industry and cooperatives said the Government has put in place policies and laws to strengthen the sugar cane sector.
Kiiza said the challenges raised by the farmers will be addressed.