Members of parliament subscribing to the ruling NRM Party have been urged to postpone the Sugar Bill and instead have more stakeholder engagements to save the sugar industry.
The call was made by president Yoweri Museveni during an NRM caucus meeting on the sugar industry and why he returned the sugar bill to parliament at a meeting held at the OPM conference Hall in Kampala.
Why cant you wait if things are not clear? Let’s postpone the bill and have more engagements with the stakeholders. There is no way we can fail to discuss with them. Let us be leaders not opportunists using peoples ignorance, he said, adding, The sugar issue can be planned in a good waylets wait until things are clear. Iam about to have my upcountry tours where I will meet these out growers and talk to them, he said.
Mr. Museveni said that there is need for more research, consultations and engagements with the different stakeholders to come to an agreed solution. He also informed the caucus that he could not sign on the sugar bill and kill the sugar until they were clear deliberations on the matter.
The President urged the legislators against mishandling the private sector, which creates wealth for the country.
You have no power if you dont work with the private sector. Government only needs to do three things; maintain peace, develop infrastructure and get rid of corruption. When discussing sugar, let nobody come and box you. Dont be influenced by nyamnyam. Only listen to public interest, he said.
He informed the caucus that people who have less than 6 acres of land should refrain from growing sugarcane because its a low value crop. He reiterated that sugarcane growing should be left for those with 10 or more acres of land while those with small pieces of land should embrace the four-acre model and engage in enterprises such as coffee, fruits, pasture for zero growing, food crop, piggery, poultry and fish farming.
We should not complicate the sugar zoning policy. I told the sugar people to grow their own sugar and not depend on small out growers. If they must depend on the out growers, then it must be from the large and medium out growers, he advised.
President Museveni warned that if the sugar industries in Uganda cannot produce to their full capacity, it would make the investors operate in losses, which will eventually lead to the collapse of the industry.
I hear Kenya and Tanzania are now importing sugar because their industries collapsed. Our sugar factories all together have a capacity of 605,000 tones but right now they are producing less. If we consume 400,000 tones of sugar, then we can export the 200,000.
Museveni said he is willing to negotiate with the Indians to consider opening up shares for out growers in the sugar industries as a way of reducing the monopoly.
My advise is dont rush. I had to send back the bill. I could not sign the bill and kill where we have gotten now. Stop politics of blindness, you are going to kill the sugar industry if we are not careful. I reject the argument that Indians are cheating us. Why quarrel with them, make own calculations. This is not a mediation, its a calculation, he said.
The President said old investors like Madhivani, Kinyara, Mehta etc are needed to do more for the industry.
We need refined sugar for beverages, pharmaceuticals etc. Most of these are imported and money is lost. Iam still struggling with cassava, nobody is processing starch for Quality Chemicals.
The President urged members to always work for the public interest as opposed to working for private interests.
Once you get a chance of leadership, work for God, work for public interest. Dont bring yourself in public office for personal gain, its kisirani (misfortune).
The President also used the opportunity to urge leaders to reorganize farming and counter climate change.
Parliament passed the Sugar Bill, 2016 in November last year to regulate the sugar industry. The House, however, rejected a government proposal to provide operating zones for mills.
In the Bill, the government had proposed a zone of 25km between mills with no more than one mill in that zone and out-growers in that area only supplying sugarcane to the mill.
However, President Museveni refused to assent to the bill saying that the lack of zoning is killing the sugar industry in Uganda, as small new companies undermine the big historical players.