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Weighbridges Boost Cane Growing

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Tom Gwebayanga

Three years ago, for farmers to sell their sugarcane, they had to process permits issued by millers, which the latter used to regulate the supply of sugarcane from outgrowers.

The regulation led to accumulation of sugarcane across the region, before millers slashed the farm gate price to as low as sh50,000 and sh60,000 per tonne.

With time, a full acre was going for sh80,000, especially between 2018 and 2021, before the frustrated farmers destroyed the shambas to grow other crops.

However, the trend has changed due to lower production. The millers are currently jostling for sugarcane and farmers are now smiling.

Godfrey Biriwali, the chairperson of Greater Busoga Sugarcane Growers Union (GBSG), said: “Even where there are no sugar mills, weighbridges have been set up. This has opened development doors for us,” Biriwali said.

He attributed the development to the abandonment of the crop following the accumulated cane crisis, which compromised the rates.

Ensuring routine supply

Biriwali believes that the investors set up the weighbridges to ensure routine supply to their mills to beat the prevailing scarcity.

The millers in the eastern districts of Busoga set up weighbridges in the east and west, attracting farmers who had destroyed their shambas in frustration following the abundance crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, where the region registered the lowest rates per tonne in history.

Across Busoga region, over 10 weighbridges are operational.

In Kamuli district, three are located in Busota, Kisozi and Luzinga trading centres in Kamuli Municipality, Kisozi and Wankole sub-counties respectively.

These have excited farmers, pushing them to work harder.

Millers who have set up weighbridges include Bugiri Sugar, Mayuge Sugar, Luweero Sugar, GM Sugar, Victoria Sugar Ltd – Luweero, etc.

Cane scarcity aftermath

The reduction in the supply of cane followed Government’s intervention, where sh300b was released to bailout Busoga, which then had over 10 million metric tonnes of excess cane.

The money was used to buy cane and also subsidise its transportation to Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru district, which had no crushing material, making it a fertile marketing ground.

Biriwali urged farmers to exploit the prevailing scarcity and and rejuvenate the shambas revive their shambas in order to enjoy the prevailing ‘sweet market’.

“With the millers having less cane to crush, the farmers are poised to enjoy cash for four consecutive years,” Biriwaali said.

He added that with three mills under construction in Buyende, Bugiri and Luuka, a bright future awaits farmers.

Sweet benefits

Isa Kalogo, the Victoria Sugar Ltd – Luweero outworkers’ chairperson, said the weighbridges have come with good products, attractive rates and prompt payments, ranging from sh198,000 to 220,000 per tonne.

Herbert Batale, a truck driver, said: “You drive less than 30km to reach the weighbridge, where the cane is offloaded and loaded onto waiting trucks.”

Moses Kalyabe, another truck driver, said the hustle of facing traffic officers along highways have also reduced.

George Batwawula, Vision Groups’ Best Farmer 2016, said with middlemen and permits abolished, the farmers only present their National IDs to deliver and are paid instantly.

The communities at the weighbridges are also in business, having set up food and drinks kiosks, mobile money and newspaper outlets.

Allen Nakimbugwe, who runs a food kiosk at Busota weighbridge in Kamuli district, said: “I now walk back home with with profi ts of sh15,000 per day.”

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