By Moses Mulondo
Members of Parliament have protested the government plan to relocate some of the sugar factories to other parts of the country.
Led by the vice-chairman of Busoga parliamentary group Milton Muwuma, the MPs told the Parliament trade committee on Wednesday that their statement was a true representation of the people of Busoga.
Government had indicated last year that it would with compensation relocate some of the sugar factories from Busoga to other regions of the country.
The MPs were responding to a petition from some original sugar factories calling for the relocation of factories that breached the national sugar policy.
The petitioners argued that whereas the policy prohibits establishing a sugar factory in a radius of 25km where there is another factory, many new factories established in the region have not complied with that requirement.
The petitioners also want government to enforce the policy requirement that each sugar factory should use only 30% of its land for sugar growing and use the remaining portion of the land for food crops.
The national sugar policy was formulated in 2010 to address the gaps which exist in the Sugar (control) Act of 1938.
Busoga MPs, however, agreed with the petitioners on some of their recommendations like the need to enact a new sugar law to incorporate the modern dynamics and challenges in the industry.
Muwuma commended trade minister Amelia Kyambadde for the letter she wrote to the advising the President against plans to relocate the factories.
“As Kyambadde argued, there are many negative consequences. We went to the factories and none of these investors is willing to leave. They said they are even ready to go to court to oppose the move,” Muwuma explained.
Jinja West MP, Moses Balyeku, said: “All sugar factories are concentrated in Busoga. It is important we consider this petition and protect manufacturers and the economy through a new law.”
The MPs requested Parliament to ensure that no more sugar factory is established in Busoga.
“Almost every district in Busoga has a sugar factory. That means we shall have to depend on other districts for food,” Balyeku explained.
Kabarole Woman MP Victoria Rusoke proposed that women in Busoga should be safeguarded from their husbands who will lease family land to sugarcane growers.
On the concern that the investors for sugar factories employ foreigners and only give nationals petty jobs for which they give them meager salaries, Samia Bugwe North MP John Mulimba said: “The investment code of Kenya allows investors to only employ 5% of the foreigners with skills nationals do not have. In East Africa, it is only Uganda without that kind of restriction. We should also do the same.”
On Muwuma’s proposal to restrict families with less than five acres from growing sugarcane for the sake of food security, Bukomansimbi County MP Deogratius Kiyingi said: “Since we are in a liberal economy. You cannot stop someone from growing what they want to grow.”
Bulamogi County MP Kenneth Lubogo said the factories have improved the social-economic welfare of the people of Busoga as their influx led to increase of the prices of sugarcanes and created employment opportunities to the residents.
The committee chairperson Flavia Kabahenda (Kyegegwa woman MP) said they have met several stakeholders on the petition and would soon present their report to Parliament.