MPs to Museveni: Don’t suffocate small sugar producers

A group of opposition and liberal minded NRM MPs have rejected a call by President Yoweri Museveni for Parliament to reconsider the Sugar Bill which was passed by Parliament in November 2018.

Led by the Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, Fred Tumuheirwe Turyamuhweza (Rujumbura) , the MPs namely, Maurice Kibalya (Bugabula South) and Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) addressed the press at Parliament and questioned the President’s interest in protecting the interests of the big sugar manufacturers.

“When we were considering this Bill, we invited all stakeholders in the sugar industry and 78 per cent of those we consulted rejected zoning. We therefore, urge President Museveni to assent to the Bill because it will promote good practices in the sugar industry,” said Turyamuhweza said.

While opening the NRM caucus retreat at Kyankwanzi on Friday, Museveni chided the MPs for passing the Sugar Bill without taking into account the interests of the big sugar manufacturers.

He said that he that the MPs could be having a suspicious relationship with the small sugar manufacturers who want government to zone sugar production – allowing the big manufacturers to monopolise sugar production within a radius of 25kms.

He thus promised to send the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration.

But the MPs urged Museveni to assent to the bill since in passing it, Parliament wanted to avoid monopoly, protectionism and favoritism so that the market forces can play out.

Kibalya said that monopoly has for long denied the indigenous people an opportunity to benefit from  sugarcane growing.

“History has it that when there was only one sugar factory in Busoga, the manufacturers stopped buying sugarcane from the farmers. Farmers had planted sugarcane and they were forced to burn their plantations because they had to plant other crops,” said Kibalya.

He said that emergence of small manufacturers in the sugar industry has enabled the industry to grow, adding that the argument by government that diversifying the industry will cripple it is misguided.

“I know that President Museveni said he will bring back the Bill, I know that the same forces that fought it, will fight it. I come from a sugar cane growing area and I know what is happening. I cannot legislate against my people,” said Kibalya.

On his part, Kivumbi said that monopoly of the sugar industry has not improved the livelihoods of the people in the sugarcane growing areas.

“One of the highest illiteracy and poverty rates are found in the neighborhoods of the biggest sugar cane industries. How can you be comfortable when your neighbors are dying of hunger, and the president of the country is okay with it,” said Kivumbi.