Parliament has postponed the discussion of the Sugar (Amendment) Bill, 2023 due to disagreements concerning the mechanisms and operations of the Sugar Industry Stakeholder Council, which is slated to replace the Sugar Board in overseeing law implementation.
The proposed legislation aims to introduce a new formula for determining the price of sugarcane, but some MPs have raised concerns that the new formula might lead to a reduction in sugarcane prices.
David Bahati, the state minister for trade, presented the Bill for the second reading and debate in the House on Wednesday, February 7. He highlighted that the establishment of a stakeholders’ council aims to entrust the management of the sugarcane industry to the private sector and correct the flawed formula used to determine sugarcane prices.
Bahati explained that the lack of funds hindered the establishment of the planned board, advocating for the council to oversee licensing instead, asserting it would provide better regulation than government intervention.
MPs voiced various concerns, including fears of decreased sugarcane prices affecting farmers’ livelihoods and the need for balanced regulation to protect both farmers and millers’ interests.
The Bill seeks to replace the Sugar Board with the Sugar Industry Stakeholder Council, comprising industry representatives, funded through a sugar levy charged on millers. Government oversight would be limited, with only a few representatives on the Council and technical officers at its secretariat.
The proposed amendment also aims to revise the formula for determining sugarcane prices to align with international standards.
MPs expressed apprehension over industry exploitation, citing instances of cancelled licenses for sugarcane mill setups, leading to losses for farmers. Concerns were raised about the disparity between dropping sugar prices and the significant decrease in raw sugarcane prices, highlighting the interdependence between farmers and millers.
Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the lack of effective implementation of existing legislation, leading to market price hikes for consumers.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa sought guidance from Deputy Attorney General Kiwanuka Kiryowa on establishing the council and its funding mechanism through an industry levy.