Atiak Sugar Factory acquires modern machines, equipment to revamp sugar production

The Uganda government through the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) has started delivering machines and equipment meant for the mechanized operations of the Atiak Sugar Factory located in Amuru district, the northern part of the country.

Mohamud Ahmed, Director of planning and business development says that machines have been purchased jointly with the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) through a sh108 billion loan supplementary budget passed by the Parliament in the financial year 2022/23 to fund the mechanization at the factory.

The funds were meant to transform the operation of the factory from labor-intensive to mechanization in a move aimed at boosting productivity both at the factory plant and the sugarcane plantation.

A few years back, business at the factory which is located Gem Village in Pachilo Parish, Atiak Sub country came to a standstill following a wildfire incident that destroyed over 3,000 acres of sugarcane out of the 7,900 acres of sugarcane plantation and this led to the factory to lose billions of money.

During a media visit to the factory, Ahmed noted that so far the factory has received 50% of the total orders of machinery needed to boost productivity.

He noted that mechanization will help the company to reduce huge expenses incurred in the recruitment of casual labor and will enable the factory to meet the production targets.

‘’The investment of 5000 houses and other services like hospitals, bars, restaurants plus more services required to house 5000 people would be more money than we would spend to mechanize these activities. Today I am glad that you saw the sugarcane harvester, one sugar cane harvester does what 900 people can do so with that you also reduce investment costs on labor and reduce costs on infrastructure because you have fewer people to be able to accommodate during these processes’’, he said.

In the past, the factory in which Horyal Investment Holding Company owns a 51% majority share and Uganda government owns the balance, has been relying on manual labor.

Ahmed believes that with mechanization, more will be done as compared to relying on manual laborers and the factory intends to recruit young and energetic people who will be trained by experts on operating the acquired machines.

Machines consisting of heavy-duty trucks and tractors will aid in road construction, irrigation dam excavation, ploughing of fields, and sugarcane harvesting among others.

The machines already at the factory site include 42 trucks out of 87 needed, and 36 heavy-duty tractors out of 47, Tractors, sugar cane harvester, and many others

Bunty Seeruttun, the Director of Agriculture at Horyal Investment Holding Company noted that they have revived the burnt sugarcane to a healthy stage.

He said that these will be turned into seed cane for the project as the factory getting ready to resume sugar production early next year.

According to him, at least 350 hectares of burned sugarcane have been revived.

He noted that the factory has also heavily invested in irrigation to mitigate several risks ranging from climate change, and fire outbreaks that have affected the sugarcane plantation over the years.

“One of the major benefits of irrigation, is it will help to reduce the crop cycle, normally the sugar cane takes between 16 – 18 months, so bringing the irrigation will shorten the sugarcane cycle to 10 or 11 months”. He said.

In this, the factory has embarked on constructing four irrigation dams with a capacity to store two million cubic meters of water is ongoing and will feed a total of 62 center pivots spread over a 4,000-hectare sugarcane plantation.

Benson Ongom, the Director of Corporate Affairs at Atiak Sugar Factory noted that among the major challenges the factory is or has been facing is politics simply because everyone pays attention to politics too much.

“In parliament, I’m telling you those Members of Parliament they are not about the vision of the factory even when our director went to the Parliament to explain to them, their interest is we have given you a lot of money” he noted.

Benson also has revealed that the company has come up with innovative ways of giving back to the community through establishing Horyal Foundation.

The foundation is an initiative that will directly support outgrowers from the region unlike in the previous model where the government was in charge of the out-growers. He said.

The initiative soon to be launched this year, will see the Horyal Foundation, give out direct support to farmers in terms of land opening, cane seeds, and market.

” we are going to start a system here, the foundation is going to run on its own, and over time we want the foundation to start applying for grants to benefit members that is how we want the foundation to stand on its own”. He said.

“Our technical team will go to the communities to verify these farmers. We want to benefit farmers because that is a challenge that we had in the past”. He added.

Benson also encouraged farmers who will be supported by the foundation in Lamwo, Amuru to diversify, not only in sugarcane. We want them to go in sim sim, Rice, Tomatoes, and greens among others.

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