“We have been in talks with West Acholi Co-operative Union, our landlord, to put in place sophisticated firefighting systems and we are in the advanced stages of this."
PIC: Company staff joined forces with Police firefighters to put out the fire. (Credit: Arnest Tumwesige)
AGRICULTURE | PROCESSING
GULU - Gulu Agricultural Development Company, which buys cotton from farmers, is counting heavy losses, amounting to about sh240m, after fire gutted one of its stores on Wednesday.
The inferno started at Coo-Rom ginnery, owned by West Acholi Co-operative Union, in Layibi Central, Gulu Municipality in Glu district.
Store number four has a holding capacity of 350 metric tonnes and it is estimated that 40% of the cotton was destroyed.
Gulu Agricultural Development Company is renting the facility from West Acholi Co-operative Union.
Charles Oboth, the company's operations manager, told New Vision that the burden of loss is on the company and not the farmers, since they are paid in cash for their cotton.
Oboth, however, said the company is insured and that they would carry out an assessment on the degree of loss.
“The damage caused is high and it has caused a lot of inconvenience to us," he said.
“We have been in talks with West Acholi Co-operative Union, our landlord, to put in place sophisticated firefighting systems and we are in the advanced stages of the discussion," Oboth explained.
He lauded the company staff for joining forces with the Police firefighters to put out the fire and prevent extensive damage.
The actual cause of the fire has yet to be established.
However, Dick Owuni, the River Aswa regional firefighting officer, said that due to the dry weather and constant running of the machines, the fire could have started as a result of sparks.
He observed that while the ginnery has a fire hydrant, it was dry at the time of the fire.
“If the hydrant has water in it, it is easy to connect a hose pipe on it and put off any fire," Owuni said on Wednesday.
"Police is going to begin investigations but at the moment, the situation is in control."
Christine Oroma, a sweeper at the ginnery, who was near the store that caught fire, said at the time, there were loaders inside the facility and others outside.
“When I saw the smoke, I hurried to get my bag and ran out to the gate. But later, I returned to join my colleagues to put out the fire.
She said a cigarette smoker could have caused the fire.
Denis Okello Osiko, a bale marker, said had it not been for the intervention of the staff, the impact of the fire would have been greater because, according to him, the Police fire brigade delayed to arrive at the scene.
It was the second time for the ginnery to catch fire. The earlier such incident happened in 2010.
Gulu Agricultural Development Company buys cotton from Gulu, Kitgum and Arua districts, of which thousands of bales are exported to the UK, Germany, Portugal and Japan.