In a recent meeting between ministry of Trade and the small scale sugar producers, it became apparent that the actions of the large producers, if ignored, could have profound impact on the operations of those producing suagr on small scale.
However, when asked on Monday about the accusations, Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association chairman Jim Mwine Kabeho said: “All that is not true.”
A statement issued by the Trade ministry last week stated that the sugar industry has been marred by contention and unfair competition between the big players and the small millers, the latter being accused of encroaching on the sugar market that is dominated by the big ones.
The small scale millers contend that big sugar manufacturers including Kakira, Lugazi and Kinyara have even refused to allow them to join their umbrella association – Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association.
According to the statement, the small sugar millers formed their own called Millers Association of Sugarcane.
The millers association has 11 members including Mayuge Sugar Industries Limited, G.M Sugar Limited, Kamuli Sugar Limited, Seven Star Sugar Limited and Ndiburungi Sugar Works Limited.
“During the meeting, they asked government to recognise and support them as key players in the sugar industry in Uganda,” reads the statement.
The chairperson of Millers’ Association of Sugarcane and general manager Mayuge Sugar Industries Limited, Mr Kamalesh Maheshwari, said: “We expected to get guidance from the big manufacturers, but we realised that they do not want us to do business in sugar.
They don’t allow us to join their association, that is why we decided to form our own association.”
The small millers also brought to the attention of the ministry challenges they face in accessing work permits for foreigners.
The association secretary, Mr Milan Dobaria, told the minister that the high charges for the work permits make it hard for them to recruit skilled workforce, something he said affects their performance.
He added that the requirement for academic qualifications is not important for them as they value practical skilled and experienced labour force than academic competences.
The small millers also asked government to put in place a law that protects employers from uncommitted Ugandan workers.
According to Mr Dobaria, although they are willing to train local labour force, they need assurances that those workers will be with them for some time.
Ms Kyambadde told the producers that Cabinet had already passed the new Sugar Bill 2015, which will provide for mechanisms to support all millers in the country with one of them being the establishment of a National Sugar Board that will monitor, oversee and coordinate all activities relating to, and ensure a fair, efficient and effective administration and operation of the sugar industry.
She said small scale millers are doing a good job by providing jobs to Ugandans as well as paying taxes.
She, however, advised them to motivate their workers well, saying the reason they do not work for long with them (millers) is because they are not well motivated.
Ms Kyambadde also said the issue of qualifications is a crucial one because government does not want to flood the country with unqualified foreigners who would compete for petty jobs with Ugandans.