UGANDA spends about $60 million per year importing palm oil. The Bidco project recently commissioned by President Museveni on Bugala Island will make Uganda self-sufficient in palm oil within seven years with a surplus that can be exported regionally.
This is the bottom line. The Bidco project on its own can generate a foreign exchange saving equivalent to the entire exports of the horticulture or fish
Bidco and its partners have already invested $45 million of their own money without any government or institutional loan or grant. The associated IFAD loan will separately develop outgrowers for the project.
Every project has an opportunity cost. The Bidco controversy hinges on the fact that the government has promised at least 10,000 hectares for the plantation. So far government has purchased 4,500 ha of private land, mostly grassland, for Bidco.
Now government has to provide another 5,550 ha to Bidco as per the contract. Otherwise Bidco may get up and walk away. That would not be in the national interest.
This may necessitate the transfer of forest reserve to Bidco. The National Forest Authority is not keen on this because it sees it as a dangerous precedent. Government could also allocate the remaining blocks of grassland on Bugala Island but Bidco is not so keen on this because it prefers contiguous land for plantation.
Compromise is now necessary. The NFA should surrender some of its forest reserve on Bugala Island on condition that an equivalent amount of land elsewhere is regazzetted as a forest reserve.
Bidco should accept parcels of land for plantation that may be smaller than it prefers.
The Bidco project is definitely good for Uganda. Government is irrevocably committed to the project. It is not possible to back out. Therefore the extra land must be found for Bidco with immediate effect so that the project can continue.
Bidco should get more land