MPs demand that govt get strategies to trim sugar prices

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Parliament on Wednesday poked holes in a statement by government explaining the causes of the current sugar crisis, characterised by high prices.
Instead, the House asked government to explain clear strategies being employed to end the scourge.
“I don’t know whether you know how much pleasure our people have when they take sugar,” Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament said.
Earlier, government, in a statement tabled by Mr Michael Werikhe, the Minister of State for Industry had indicated to Parliament that sugar prices would be maintained at Shs5,000 a kilo to strike a balance between traders and consumers’ interests.
Mr Werikhe also said that sugar prices had dropped from Shs8,500 to Shs5,000, but the Speaker said that Shs5,000 is too high for Ugandans in the countryside.
She demanded that the price be revised downward to make it more affordable for the ordinary citizens.
“We want a strategy for pulling down the prices of sugar,” Kadaga demanded.
Werikhe indicated in the statement that the rise in prices of sugar between November 2016 and May 2017 had been caused by a number of factors, mainly prolonged drought, for a period stretching for over nine months, and the harvest of immature sugarcane by farmers and out growers.
The minister also said that the problem was worsened by regional factors, hinged on the forces of demand and supply.
“There was increasing demand caused by a gap over 300,000 MT [metric tonnes] and 40,000 MT in Kenya and Rwanda, respectively,” said Werikhe.
To mitigate the situation, Mr Werikhe said that government has urged the millers to ensure that the factories maintain normal production while giving priority to local markets for sustainable supply levels.
The minister also said that “the ministry [of trade] is committed to continuing monitoring sugar supply stocks from millers, distributors and retailers to ensure that the retail price of sugar come does not exceed the target price.”
Meanwhile, Ms Winnie Kiiza, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, questioned the undertaking, citing the existing economic policy and trade regulations.
“How will you fix prices in a free market economy?” she asked. “As you do your negotiations, pay attention to how are you going to do this in line with the forces of demand and supply.”
Ms Kiiza also asked the minister to explain why sugar bought from DR Congo by locals is at Shs3,000 a kilo yet the Congolese traders buy the sugar from Uganda.
Other lawmakers including Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo) and Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality) blamed the government for watching as traders hoard sugar.
Mr Werikhe said that while it is true there were traders involved in hoarding, the government would take action and further curtail price fluctuations.
Government has been given up to Tuesday next week to come up with a comprehensive report which should include a clear strategy to trim the price of sugar.

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