Sugarcane does just as well in Rakai – Sango Bay sugar estates owners

Soon after government announced its rejection of various land offers as alternatives to a portion of Mabira forest that President Museveni wants to give away to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (Scoul) to grow sugarcane, the Asian owners of Sango Bay Sugar Estates in Rakai district are offering Scoul 146,000 hectares of land for sugarcane growing.

On August 22, the state minister for ICT, Nyombi Thembo, told journalists at Parliament that cabinet had rejected various land offers because the land was not free, and would push on with the degazetting of Mabira Forest to allow Mehta to expand his sugarcane plantations.

“We looked at the land they are offering. It has squatters, and we cannot evict people because we want to grow sugarcane. That’s why we are saying that let’s give the degraded part of Mabira to Mehta to expand his plantations,” Nyombi said.

So far, government has received land offers from Buganda kingdom, Bulambuli district authorities and Namirembe diocese for sugarcane growing in a bid to save Mabira, but the establishment has snubbed all the gestures. However, the Asian owners of Sango Bay Sugar Estates are warning Mehta against accepting the government offer, since it is likely to cause “turmoil”.

“I don’t see any reason why government should insist on that forest. Mabira will not solve the sugar problem, and neither will importation of more sugar, because when you look at the market prices and take into account transportation costs, the sugar will arrive here at a higher price than the current one,” said Sharad Patel, the Sango Bay managing director.

By the 1972 expulsion of Asians by the late former President Idi Amin Dada, Sango Bay Sugar Estates was one of the leading sugar producers in the country.
The 146,000 hectare expanse of land was allocated to the Patel family for sugarcane growing in the 1930s by the colonial government. This estate, however, started crumbling in the 1970s due to weaknesses in management.

The Patel family repossessed the estate in the 1990s following the establishment of the Custodian Board, which handled the return of Asians’ assets to the rightful owners. A big chunk of this 146,000 hectare expanse is bare and is occasionally used by herdsmen, since the owners are still trying to raise funds to refurbish the sugar factory that was vandalized in the 1970s.

“These people only need a financial push from the government and they will start producing sugar,” says Kakuuto MP, Mathias Kasamba, who, along with the leadership in Rakai, is puzzled by the government’s obsession with giving away Mabira Forest.

“What is so special about Mehta that he is being cushioned by the government? If it’s about giving incentives to investors, the Sango Bay estates should have access to government incentives,” says Kasamba, a member of the ruling NRM party.

“The problem has been land, but now we have free land here, with some sugarcane already. Unless there are some sinister motives, there is no way the government can reject such an offer.

“If they are telling us about zoning sugar production, why isn’t it applicable to Rakai? Most youth here are jobless, but Sango Bay alone can employ more than 10,000 people. Whether it’s in the caucus or on the floor of Parliament, I will stand out to be counted among those that are against the Mabira give-away,” he added.

Kasamba’s remarks were prompted by complaints from people attending the silver jubilee celebrations for Mannya Catholic parish in Kifamba sub-county about the rate of environmental degradation in the country and the semi arid conditions in their area. The deputy coordinator of intelligence services, Brig Elly Kayanja, said Mabira has nothing to do with the extensive drought in the area.

“You’re making useless noise about Mabira, when you depleted Nabbunga hill of its tree cover,” Kayanja told the congregation.

However, he was quick to support the Patels’ land offer to Mehta and the rehabilitation of Sango Bay, saying it would create employment and bring development to the area.

“We need to create employment for our people here. If Sango Bay is redeveloped, it can offer an alternative to [the proposed] Mabira [give-away] and also address the sugar problem in the country,” Kayanka said.

Most of the sugarcane grown on the estate is sold to Kagera Sugar Works, located about 55 km away, in Tanzania. Ironically, some of the sugar produced at Kagera Sugar Works is exported to Uganda and is being sold in shops in Masaka region during the current sugar crisis. According to Patel, his company entered into an agreement with Kagera Sugar Works in which the latter buys Sango Bay sugarcane at a low price, since the former want to save their sugarcane seed.

“I want to keep my sugarcane seed and would be losing out if I don’t cut the mature sugarcane. It benefits them [Kagera] and we also benefit by saving our seed. Otherwise, they are not bringing in much money; I sell to them a very low price,” says Patel.

Sango Bay currently has about 200 hectares of sugarcane, from which they hope to get sugarcane seedlings for about 4,500 hectares.

Patel says he is willing to enter into a partnership with the government or with Scoul to redevelop his estate.

“Sugarcane does well here and is organic, just like the one they wish to grow in Mabira. I think they should save the forest,” Patel says.


0 #1 Robzo 2011-08-25 03:25
President Museveni has learnt the way Ugandans think. He knows well enough that not so many issues can be discussed at the same time in this country.

That's why he talked about Mabira in the middle of the govt propelled economic crisis. Just to divert attention of the people.

Chances are that he really doesn't intend to give away forest land to 'make' sugar.

But if he does, then the writing is on the wall. Ugandans do not need that type of Sugar.

Best wishes to him.
0 #2 Raymond Otika 2011-08-25 05:21
I hope Mr. Sharad Patel has not kulemesa Mr. Museveni's scheme. Because otherwise, the president's do or die demand for Mabira's forest reserve to grow sugarcane is internationally embarrassing to Uganda.

You can't throw away the environment just for sugar. Now that the offer is over and above 7200 hectares, of what Mehta (SCOUL) is dying for; let Ugandans wait, see and hear what Mr. Museveni will say?
0 #3 Julius 2011-08-25 06:32
Congratulations to Mr.Patel for supporting our cause and and suggesting to Government on that foresight patnership.

This will create more jobs and increase the amount of sugar in the country;besides ,146,000 hectares that you're offering is more than 20 times bigger than the 7,100 hectares they are clamouring for in Mabira!
0 #4 Dr Jacob Kiriba-edda 2011-08-25 06:46
More Asians doing business in Uganda should come up and state their stand on the issue of Mabira but most important Metha should tell Ugandans if he is really the one pushing Museveni for Mabira or Museveni is just using him.

Metha's stand and indeed of the Asian community in Uganda shall be very important in protecting or damaging their future relation with Ugandans.

At the end of the day, Ugandans shall prevail over Museveni and whoever thinks is untoucheable because he is well connected to Museveni like Shudhir Rupareria who disrespected the Uganda Parliament when he appeared before it over CHOGM money are creating unnecessary tensions.

People like Shudhir Rupareria, the so-called Katongole Singh Museveni facilitated to 'steal' the Lubaga North vote have made Ugandans to dislike the Asian community in Uganda and if there are Asians in Uganda who disagree with these people should today stand up and state on which side they belong because tomorrow might be too late.
0 #5 Watson 2011-08-25 07:10
Why would there be any more push for Mabira when it can be grown else where, besides u will have taken development to another part of uganda. If transport is the problem then a factory can be built there.
0 #6 Kaheru 2011-08-25 07:15
can someone enlight me on what we as Ugandans got in return for this generous offer of our land to the Patel family???
0 #7 Jim Kamezza 2011-08-25 08:33
stop the mabira saga and concentrate on the failing economy , m7 is now holding every Ugandan at ransom, we are in deep danger and m7 must be chased away ASAP
0 #8 kabayekka 2011-08-25 09:14
Good for you Patel, a foreigner to have come out and tell it how you got Buganda land in the first place. The colonialists killed King Mwanga with the help of the Protestant, and Catholic church.

Afterwards they divided the land up as they wished. They have now made Buganda land Uganda land. Where this new English country had no land at all. Exactly now it is happening. Museveni a foreigner is trying to give off Buganda land as if it was his grandfather's land!
0 #9 Demo 2011-08-25 09:17
We might scream our voices hoarse but the truth is all these other alternative offers dont benefit someone somewhere. It as simple as that.

A while ago a journalist pointed out that with all public assets stolen, it is only land that is left and we have seen this manifesting in many places.
0 #10 stephen Kakooza 2011-08-25 09:55
How much money did Metha lend Museveni?. Why is Metha adamant as if he leaves on the moon?. Metha should know that by tampering with Mabira forest and ignoring the people's views who are his primary consumers he his making BOTH A POLITICAL AND BUSINESS BLANDER THAT WILL SEE HIM LOSSING WHATEVER HE HAS IN UGANDA IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

Its stupidity of the highest order to destory a forest cover that makes rain and plant sugarcane forgeting that FOOD is more useful than mere sugar which is even not affordable to most poor people who depend on rain to get food to feed their families.

If Metha thinks that IDI AMIN WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO CHASSED HIM he should know that more IDI AMINIs were born long ago and should not make a mistake of tasting their anger. Metha should know that money is not very thing and should not forget the DAY THEY TOOK A TAATA LORRY FULL OF MONEY TO BRIBE AMIN, who chassed them and they even forgot the lorry in State House compound.

This country has more nationalist leaders, leave alone these thieves, whose origin is a subject of debate,similar to former Zambian President The Late Fredrick Kiruba. Just go ahead with your plans with Museveni but remember to run away with him the day he will lose power.
0 #11 Jonathan Kalani 2011-08-25 12:32
It is not the president who needs the land. It is Mehta. Patel has offered a solution. Mehta should thank and kneel before Patel and take up that land which is 20 times more than the mabira he wanted. I think the president is relieved of the land for sugar cane problem.
0 #12 Hassanali Karimjee 2011-08-25 14:00
Health experts are trying to do away with sugar in-take and here a president is staking his political backwardness in promoting excessive production!

We should more grow solid nutritious foods like beans, sim-sim, maize,shorgum and health giving friuts, etc,for a healthier Uganda!!!
0 #13 Tom Mirundi 2011-08-25 15:46
1. M7 wants to give Mabira to Mehta at all costs.
2. Mehta wants Mabira and nothing else.

If these two statements are true then someone paid and another one reieved payment for this land. Is anyone suggesting these two people appear before a paliamnetary committee to explain why Mabira should be given to Mehta?

Yes they should explain themselves. Mr Mehta, next time you buy something from the government insist on getting a reciept. It looks like you bought byoya byanswa this time. In your heart of hearts do you think you will have mabira as promised?
0 #14 DD 2011-08-25 16:33
Where did Mr Patel get 146,000 Hectares?
0 #15 Lawot 2011-08-25 23:32
I have been angered enough by Mehta’s (and by extension Museveni’s) insistence on converting several hectares of an extremely important environmental and ecological reserve into a sugar plantation, but it is Mehta’s statement (according to Museveni) that he does not care what Ugandans think that pushed me over the edge.

Mehta doesn’t give a damn what we think about his attempts to destroy our environment? Am I angry about this? – That’s putting it mildly. Am I livid about it – you bet! So you will please forgive my French if I say ‘who the ‘f...k does this man think he is?’

I am penning this on behalf of a dedicated group of patriotic and very angry Ugandans. The saga, they figure, is getting personal. I like them, happen to be one of those Ugandans who will never take an insult lying down, and this Indian has dared to insult us!

Having secured Museveni’s ears and undivided attention, he’s decided that the opinions of Ugandans aren’t worth his consideration. He did not even have the courtesy of addressing Ugandans directly but did so through Museveni.

In other words, Museveni was his mouthpiece. And you still wonder who’s really in charge in this country and who merely tows the line?
But our advice to Mehta and Co is; back off now... and that’s the only advice you and your ventriloquist dummy will ever get.
+1 #16 Mary 2011-08-26 02:39
To Mr Kakooza , Kabayekka and the rest with a racist mind.

If you what to be objective in the debate, leave race and tribes out, Mibira is not a tribal issue, it is national. Please debate with knowledge and avoid exposing you ignorance on immigration issues.

It is being myopic and racist to call Indians who were born and raised in Uganda foreigners. I know in the general population there are people of narrow and shallow mind but such need to know that you don't have be black only to be a Ugandan, the wife of the Kabaka and many Ugandan born are citizens of other countries.

The Ugandan law was made by prudent and wise men and women who were very smart beyond the likes of
( Kakooza and Kabayekka )to include dual citizen and defined who a Ugandan is.

Such narrow minded people what great thing have you done for Uganda that can be equated to Patel of Sango Bay?

Am sorry for being hard on you, however I am helping and teaching you to stick to the issue at hand because you seem to miss the point, it seems you would support giving Mabira to Mukasa because he is a black Uganda

Mark you I don’t support giving Mabira to any Ugandan be it Mukasa or Pike or Patel.

Mary Nakimera
University of New york Albany USA
0 #17 Joash Karoo Karungi 2011-08-26 08:39
Where did Mr Patel get 146,000 Hectares? Many foreigners like Patel have got mile & mile of land bonanza.Its high time to review these colonial agreements.
0 #18 Cornelius Gulere 2011-08-26 10:22
Just to thank Nakimera Mary and Patel for being progressive minded. I believe government has got the answer to saving all Mabiras in Uganda or starting perpetual boycots based on barbaric racial sentiments.
0 #19 kabayekka 2011-08-26 10:49
Sorry Mary if I have offended you. I do not think that I have offended Patel to call him a foreigner. Patel knows it and in the article says it clearly.

The two religious denominations (Protestant or Anglican and French Catholicism)hav e all the history books well written about why they sided with the British and ordered Apollo Kaggwa the Kattikiro of Buganda to exile King Mwanga where he was later executed.

King Daudi Chwa II as a three year old King could not cause any trouble. He died fed up with the British Empire consipiracies. Ask these churches how many hectares they own according to the 20 Buganda Counties they divided between themselves.----Butambala was the only one given to the religious denomination of Islam.

Mary I do not mind if they did this else where in some other country in South America. They did it in my own country in the back yard. When Muteesa II refused anymore land negotiations with the British 1953 they exiled Him to Britain.

The brave Baganda refused. Tetusisa mulamu. First excute Muteesa II than we can change the Kabaka. They did it 1966 and 1969. Mwanga, Kabalega, Muteesa II all well excuted and well buried. Mary do not sorry me. Sorry yourself.
0 #20 wodgot 2011-08-26 11:29
Land is a fixed factor of production which can't be AIR-LIFTED like from India to Africa and unrolled like a carpet.

The Colonial masters had no legitimate authority over land in Africa. Whatever transaction they had with Indians during the construction of the Uganda Railway is now null and void.

Yes, I respect Patel for what he's trying to do but I think I also got the right to question how he got that piece of Uganda. Patel;how did you get that chunk please?

My worries with Metha is that whenever he's given a piece of Uganda, he builds a WALL FENCE around it,why?

Building wall fence around land is also environmental harzard and it's a capitalistic expression that the land is now mine so get out of here!.

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