Workers package Sugar at Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District.
Atiak Sugar Factory in Amuru District has temporarily shut down sugar production over inadequate can supply. The factory commenced production of brown sugar for both domestic consumption and export in 2020 and was meant to get sugarcanes from out-growers in Amuru and Lamwo Districts.
Uganda Radio Network however understands that the factory closed business about a month ago after months of grappling with shortfalls in quantities of sugarcane. Dr. Amina Hersi Moghe, the Chief Executive Officer of Horyal Investments Holding Company Ltd, the entity behind Atiak Sugar Factory on Monday confirmed the closure of the factory in an interview with URN but noted it was temporary.
“The factory is closed and the biggest problem we have is there is no cane. If you don’t have the canes, what do you produce, what do you do?” She said. According to Dr. Amina, they were assured of production this time around since about 300,000 tons of sugarcanes were available but notes that they were destroyed following a fire outbreak in Atiak Sub-county, Amuru District in December last year.
“The canes were available, almost like 300,000 tons but you know all the canes got burnt by December. We grew the canes, all the canes got burnt during the dry season,” says Dr. Amina. Over 3,000 acres of sugarcane plantation were razed down in the inferno leaving over 3,000 out growers of Atiak Sugar Plantation Out-growers Cooperative Society Ltd and Gem Pacilo Farmers’ Cooperative Society Out-growers in losses.
She however notes that the factory will get back to business once sugarcanes from Ayuu Alali plantation in Palabek Kal Sub-county, Lamwo District mature between July and August this year. “In Lamwo, they have canes, which are still immature but by July or August, they will be ready for the factory and production,” She said
Santa Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Sugar Plantation Out-growers Cooperative Society Ltd, says that the temporary closure has rendered many people, especially out-growers jobless at the moment. “The out-growers were supposed to benefit from the field of sugar cane, they are frustrated, and all of us are frustrated,” Says Laker.
Michael Lakony, the Amuru District Chairperson, says that the factory heavily relied on sugarcane supplies from Ayuu Alali in Lamwo District but notes that when production at the plantation declined, supplies became inadequate.
He also notes that the government had been subsiding on transport costs for canes ferried from out-growers in the Busoga region, adding that when the government cut down the subsidies, the factory was affected.
The factory with a capacity to crash 1,650 metric tons of canes daily for both export and domestic use has been underperforming in the past months since it kicked off sugar production. For instance, at its maiden production, officials at the factory revealed that only 800 tons of canes were being crushed on a daily basis.
Dr. Amina however says they hope to have steady production at the factory and the plantation with the recent intervention from the government in ensuring the Atiak Sugar Factory project is mechanized. Parliament recently approved a supplementary budget of Shillings 108 billion to Mechanize the agribusiness and steer sugarcane production.
The additional funding will see the installation of irrigation systems in the Plantations that have been prone to fire outbreaks, and the purchase of mechanized equipment to reduce human labor.
Atiak Sugar factory in which the government through Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) has 40 shares has incurred losses amounting to 3 Billion shillings due to fire outbreaks in 2019 alone according to the 2020 police annual crime report.
With close to 60,000 acres of land acquired for sugarcane growing in Atiak Sub-county in Amuru and Palabek Kal and Palabek Ogili in Lamwo District, the government, the sugarcane project is expected to uplift the economic status of vulnerable groups in the region.