Kadaga Concerned by ‘Media Blackout’ when Parliament Passed Sugar Bill

Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.

Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has faulted the press for deliberately refusing to report about the passing of the Sugar Bill last year, which in her opinion was a landmark ruling for Uganda.

Kadaga raised the concern on Thursday while addressing the press at Parliament as the new year begins.

“I have a complaint. There are times when you put us in blackout, you don’t report what is happening in the House. A total blackout,” the Speaker told reporters.

“On the Sugar Bill, I made a very important ruling for this country, but no one has ever reported about the Sugar Bill or my ruling,” Kadaga further said.

She noted that whereas there must have been a reason why the press refused to report the story, “it is not good for this country”.

She appealed to the press to work closely with Parliament in the new year.

The Sugar Bill, 2016 was passed by Parliament on November 21 last year, with the House quashing a number of clauses considered unfair to the ordinary cane farmer and only favoring sugar ‘barons’.

Notable among the adjustments made, majority of the legislators rejected a proposal by government to have a zone of 25km between mills with no more than one mill in that zone and out-growers in that area only supplying sugarcane to the mill.

Instead, the Committee on Trade that considered the Bill, proposed to have a nucleus operating area of 2,000 hectares.

MPs argued that Uganda is a liberalized economy, and thus there was no need to create monopolies to enrich a few sugar barons at the expense of the growers through discriminatory clauses such as zoning, which are unconstitutional.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Robert Ssebunya, noted that the committee proposed an amendment that a sugar mill or plant has a nucleus estate instead of a zone of 2,000 hectares from a 25km radius.

The Bill seeks to provide for the development, regulation and promotion of the sugar industry to ensure that there is a sustainable, diversified, harmonized, modern and competitive sugar sector.

Margaret Baba Diri, the MP for Koboko district was opposed to government dictating the size of the area where a mill will be established because 2,000 hectares is too much and gives the miller a big expanse to have control over.

Members also voted to double the number of out growers on the Uganda Sugar Board from two to four since they are the majority in the sugar cane growing industry. This was aimed at creating power balance between the growers, the millers and government.

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