By: Francis Mugerwa and George Muzoora
Masindi: Kinyara Sugar Works has lost more than 50 hectares of sugarcane in Masindi District after a fire gutted its plantations on Monday.
This comes a day after about 620 hectares were also destroyed.
The company’s spokesperson, Mr Jude Mubuuke, said fire razed sugarcanes for outgrowers in Kanyege compartment in Budongo Sub-county.
Fires also razed more than 200 hectares sugarcane estates of farmers contracted by the factory in Kimengo Sub- county.
The cause of the fire is not yet clear but security officials in the district suspect it could be arson as was the case in the first fire.
The affected areas include Kikuube, Kihara, Balijukira, Kinywamuraara, Kabahara, Kyabakama and Kyandangi villages in Bwijanga Sub-county. The midwestern regional police spokesperson, Ms Lydia Tumushabe, said detectives from the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department have visited the affected plantations, adding that investigations are underway.
Detectives are reportedly following leads suggesting that the crops could have been deliberately torched.
Some residents adjacent to the estates have in the past accused the sugar company of marginalising them on jobs and business – allegations the firm denies.
Police were yesterday patrolling the sugar estates while factory officials were holding multiple community meetings with residents.
There has been a deliberate programme by district officials since last December to sensitise residents to refrain from burning bushes, a vice which has for years been common during the dry seasons.
Mr Cosmus Byaruhanga, a farmer, whose six hectares of sugarcanes were burnt at Kikuube village said he esimates to have lost Shs40 million, the greatest loss he has ever incurred.
The chairperson of Masindi Sugarcane Growers Association, Mr Robert Atugonza, has appealed to the government to introduce an insurance policy to protect sugarcane farmers from incurring such loses.
“If the government can develop an insurance scheme for cane fires, it could help farmers in the faith of promoting agriculture,” Mr Atugonza said.
Sugarcane growing provides direct employment to about 10,000 people.
Kinyara processes about 100 tonnes of sugar from each hectare.
The company officials said the sugar firm crashes about 4,000 tonnes of sugarcane daily.
Source: Daily Monitor