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Kikuube District Boss, Councillors Lock Horns Over Sugarcane Tax

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Peter Abaanabasazi

Kikuube district chairperson Peter Banura has expressed dismay over the area councillors’ rejection of the executive committee’s proposal to impose a sh10,000 tax on every truck carrying sugarcane sold by outgrowers.

The finance committee had made the proposal with the aim of raising more revenue for rehabilitating roads, which are always damaged by sugarcane lorries.

Four months ago, Banura presented the finance committee recommendation to council, seeking the councillors’ approval of the tax in vain.

Instead, the issue was deferred to the next council meeting. When the farmers learnt about the proposal, they protested, describing it as double taxation.

The farmers led by Francis Isingoma, the chairperson of Hoima Sugarcane Outgrowers Association, petitioned the district council speaker, Chris Nkalu, demanding the rejection of the proposal.

In response to the farmers’ outcry, in the council meeting held at the district headquarters at Kisambo, on May 28, the councillors rejected the recommendation, saying imposing the tax was tantamount to exploitation.

Alex Byesi, the councillor for Kabwoya Upper, said it was not possible to have tax without an ordinance supporting it.

He added that the council was in the process of making the Sugar Protection Law, saying once this bill is passed, it will have a clause where such charges will be imposed on the miller and not the common person.

“The council has already drafted the Sugar Protection Bill and we have sent it to the Solicitor General for advice. When the Solicitor General brings it back, the council will pass it into law and it is from this law that the council will be charging the miller a fee that will be agreed upon; not the farmers,” Byesi said.

He demanded that the council withdraws the tax for the good of the farmers. The councillors unanimously supported the submission of Byesi and demanded the recommendation not to be passed.

Nkalu commended the councillors for taking a bold decision against the tax.

He noted that charging farmers is unfair because they incur many costs in the process of growing sugarcane.

“We have taken a bold decision as council to stop the charges on sugarcane out-growers. The reason is that these sugarcane millers pay the district local service tax; it is our duty to protect and empower the farmers,” Nkalu said.

Banura’s justification

Reacting to the council decision, Banura said the tax was targeting farmers who move sugarcane out of the district.

He said the councillors misinterpreted the proposal, adding that they will hold more engagements with the councillors to ensure that the tax is passed.

Banura said collecting tax on sugarcane trucks was a revenue opportunity to improve the district’s struggling revenue base.

“We have many sugar factories in the region. The farmers who supply cane to the sugar millers pay tax indirectly, but those who exit Kikuube to sell their sugarcane in other districts such as Kyenjojo and Hoima are the ones that are supposed to be paying this tax so that it improves the local revenue of the district. We are not going to rest, we are going to engage the councillors to see that this decision is changed,” he said.

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: A lorry carrying sugarcane in Kikuube. The district executive committee has proposed a sh10,000 tax on every lorry of sugarcane. File photo

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