Sugarcane growers under Busoga Sugarcane Growers Association – BSGA have joined the chorus demanding that road taxes on each ton of sugarcane is scrapped by Kakira Sugar Limited – KSL.
The growers believe 250 shillings levied on each ton of sugarcane sold to KSL has made it very unprofitable for them to grow, cut and transport sugarcane to KSL.
Ayub Kato, a Sugarcane grower from Ntinkalu village in Jinja, says currently a ton of sugarcane is bought by KSL at 74,000 shillings but most growers say the lose a lot of money after cultivating the land, planting, weeding, spraying, harvesting and transporting the cane to KSL. Deduction of 250 shillings by Kakira Out growers Rural Development Fund – KORD reduces their profits further, yet KSL claims it maintains the roads alone.
Kato faults KORD for failing to be transparent on what KSL contributes to the road maintenance, yet the money from out-growers is continually deducted. He wants KORD to protect out-growers who are currently earning low incomes from KSL. At least 9,000 farmers are registered with KORD and they supply 1.5 million tons of cane per year to Kakira Sugar Limited.
David Ojwang, Chairman BSGA, says an average cane farmer needs 800,000 shillings to cultivate an acre of sugarcane. The farmers needs to pay 2000 shillings per 50 bundles of cane cut and transported to the lorry. They need another 50,000 shillings for loading and 20,000 shillings for the driver. The farmer gets 1.4 million shillings from one acre of sugarcane after two years.
Ojwang says he would tell all 9,000 members of BSGA to suspend their KORD membership. He says deduction of 250 shillings is too much for farmers who incur a lot of costs and wait longer for the sugarcane to grow before they sell.
John Rubaramira, the KORD Chief Executive Officer, has declined to comment on the matter.
But Dr M.R. Reddy, Kakira Sugar Agriculture manager, says the money deducted is a contribution from the farmers to road maintenance since they use the roads themselves. He says KSL contributes more than 80% of road maintenance fees in sugarcane growing areas in Busoga region.