• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
20 Sep 2022

An assessment of the sugarcane sub-sector in Uganda found that at least 11, 364 farmers had dumped cane growing last year as prices dropped to lowest level in recent memory. Cane prices recovered in second half of 2022.

Economic Policy Research Centre published the results of the nationwide study on the sector at the recently concluded 10th National Forum on Agriculture and Food Security at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala.

The study was supported by the partnership with Michigan State University and the International Food Policy Research Institute under the auspices of the Food Security Policy Research, Capacity and Influence and USAID.

Dr. Swaibu Mbowa, EPRC senior research fellow, while presenting results, said the prevailing environment in the sugarcane sector had made it hard for farmers to thrive.

“We know that the enabling environment can protect livelihoods to steer sustainable growth of the sector,” he said. “There is concern within the sugarcane growing communities [and] their livelihoods have at one point been threatened, and Busoga is home to 1.2 million people poor and the finger had been pointed at sugarcane …”

About 29,000 farming households engage in cane production with an estimated 640,000 labourers. More households took up the business between 2012 and 2021 with at least 40,000 households, at one point, growing cane between 2005 and 2021. Some 11, 364 farmers left the sector in 2021.

EPRC study shows that the environment for cane production in Uganda has provided limited empowerment and protection to outgrowers, forcing many to quit. Gaps in the implementation of the 2010 National Sugar Policy and Sugar Act, 2020 by Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Agriculture have created more uncertainties in the sector.

Burnt Sugarcane in Buikwe. Fires is a big challenge to farmers in dry season and when cane overgrown beyond harvest time

The study recommends re-opening of discussions on the creation of the Sugar Board as recommended by the Sugar Act 2020, to regulate the sector and improve coordination between millers and outgrowers, as envisioned by the 2010 NSP.

In addition, it highlights trends in cane production with jumps from 1.5m MT in 2000 to 5.8MT in 2020 at national level. This has come as a result of opening up more fields to grow cane not advances in technology or better farming methods. The paper shows that productivity has remained static at 28MT per hectare. This calls for more investment in research and development in the sector to push for the improvement in productivity in the sector.

Uganda currently has 33 licensed mills but with about 12 operational. Get the report here: Revisiting Policy and Institutional Arrangements Affecting Sugarcane Outgrowers and Millers in Uganda



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