Ministry of Finance Seeks a Shs2 billion Budget to Establish the Sugar Board

The administration has faced challenges in establishing the Sugar Board to oversee the sugar industry, citing insufficient funds, as stated by the Minister of State for Finance (Privatization and Investment), Evelyn Anite.

Minister Anite revealed that although the Sugar Bill received assent following the approval of the 2023/2024 budget, the necessary Shs2 billion for the Sugar Board was not allocated, leading to the decision not to operationalize a Sugar Council as an interim solution.

“As you may be aware, the government generally encountered resource constraints as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, my Ministry was not able to provide the required funding,” explained Anite during her appearance before the committee chaired by Hon. Rita Atukwasa (Ind., Mbarara City) on Wednesday, November 22, 2023.

The committee is currently reviewing a petition submitted by the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association (USMA) against the licensing of new millers.

According to the Sugar Act, 2020, a Board is established to regulate the sugar industry and will be responsible for licensing sugarcane millers, among other duties.

Anite emphasized that funding for Sugar Board activities would require facilitation through a supplementary budget. She added that a Sugar Council, funded by sugar millers, would be established to regulate the sector temporarily.

“This new body would have no recourse on government resources for some of its activities as they would be privately funded by sugar millers. Government did not want to borrow and consulted sugar millers who were willing to finance the Sugar Council,” Anite clarified.

However, Members of Parliament raised concerns about the independence of the proposed council, suggesting that millers might exploit sugarcane outgrowers.

Hon. Betty Engola (NRM, Apac district) expressed concern, stating, “Millers may exploit sugarcane outgrowers because we discovered that the majority of the millers do not have a good relationship with the outgrowers.”

Hon. Apio Eunice (UPC, Oyam County North) highlighted potential conflicts of interest, stating, “When we went to Busoga on an oversight visit, we interacted with millers. It appears to be a rift between established millers and the newbies, and if the Council is funded by millers, the majority of whom are giants, there will be a conflict of interest.”

Hon. Geofrey Okello (DP, Nwoya East) emphasized the need for clarity on how the Council would operate, noting, “The Sugar Board is the central pillar of the implementation of the law. Its absence renders the law ineffective.”

USMA submitted a petition to Parliament on July 17, 2023, expressing concerns about newly licensed sugar mills and those that had begun constructing their factories. The petitioners argued that operational mills were competing for limited available sugarcane, resulting in the crushing of underage cane, leading to losses for out-grower farmers, companies, and the government, as immature cane contains less sucrose.