MPs have voiced an unequivocal opposition to a proposal in the Sugar Bill, 2016 to zone growers and manufacturers by a radius of 25 kilometers.
First, a Minority Report supporting zoning and asking government to relocate manufacturers who already fall within the 25 kilometers was shot down by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for being “unconstitutional”.
“If government is going to move the millers or buy land, the proposal must come from government,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker based her ruling on Article 93 of the Constitution, which restricts legislation on matters that have the effect of committing government financially.
Such Bills or amendments, says Article 93, must be introduced by the government.
MPs would, save for Hon Reagan Okumu (FDC, Aswa) and Hon Herbert Ariko (FDC, Soroti Municipality), oppose zoning.
“Why should we restrict sugarcane growers and not cattle-keepers, banana growers or cassava growers? We should reject zoning because it is not good,” said MP Bintu Jalia Lukumu (NRM, Masindi).
MP Moses Walyomu (NRM, Kagoma) said zoning should be opposed. He criticized the Committee for not balancing representation of out growers vis-à-vis manufacturers on a powerful board proposed in the Bill.
With out-growers having four members on the proposed board as against the five granted to manufacturers, Walyomu fears the spirit of consensus will be killed, to the disadvantage of out-growers.
“The Bill wants the minority growers to have representation more than the majority out-growers. If we can have an equal number, it will be good for decision making,” said Walyomu.
MP Okumu disagreed.
“If you can concentrate 10 factories in an area, what is the impact on the environment? The entire Uganda is a planting area; I want us to look at both the short and long run,” said Okumu.
He said zoning should be supported and urged MPs to drop what he called emotions in the debate, saying rational considerations root for zoning.
MP Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja Municipality East) concurred.
“Zoning does not mean monopoly, it doesn’t mean stopping farmers from selling sugarcane elsewhere; this cannot be an emotional debate,” he said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asked Trade and Industry Minister Amelia Kyambadde to suggest a way forward, before adjourning the House to Tuesday, 20 November 2018.