Lower cane prices leave farmers counting losses

Kampala

Sugarcane farmers contracted by companies and outgrowers, are counting losses after different factories cut cane prices to Shs60,000 per tonne down from Shs95,000.

The cane growing sub-region of Busoga has been hit most and some farmers are thinking of abandoning the most grown cash crop in the area.

Mr Emma Nkolwa, a farmer in Wairama parish, Buwaaya Sub county, Mayuge District, said the current prices are not commensurate with cost inputs. “I rent an acre [of land] at Shs400,000 and a truck of sugarcane for planting at Shs800,000 but one truck cannot plant an acre yet you have to weed five times if you are to get good yields,” Mr Nkolwa said.

He says cane transporters have not yielded to farmers’ calls of lowering transport costs to match the new cane prices leaving them debts. “Truck owners [transporters] have been charging Shs250,000 for every seven kilometres but they have maintained that despite the factories slashing the prices per tonne,” Mr Nkolwa said.

A truck normally carries between eight and 10 tonnes.
Mr Jim Kabeho, the chairman Uganda Sugar Millers Association, when contacted attributed the current prices to high operational costs and failure by local factories to export to neighbouring markets.

“Factories have to cover operational costs. Unless government negotiates with Kenya and the South Sudan market opens, the prices will remain low or you will hear that some companies are closing,” Mr Kabeho said on Monday.
Mr Peter Ngobi, an outgrower in Jinja District however disagrees with Mr Kabeho accusing the factories of connivance to keep the prices low in order to profit more from the farmers.

“The price of sugar has not declined. This is a deliberate move to keep farmers poorer,” Mr Ngobi said.
Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) recently suspended sugar import permits from Ugandan and Tanzanian sugar importers following reports that the two countries had flooded the Kenya sugar market with cheap sugar suspected to have been imported tax-free from the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
The imports were to stabilise sugar shortages and sky rocketing prices that hit the region in 2011.

ptajuba@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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