Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry have commended Bukona Agro Processors Ltd, a local investor in Nwoya district, that is processing cassava into fuel.
The MPs were thrilled that the company is producing ethanol from cassava that will mainly be used in cooking, reducing the pressure on forests through charcoal burning and firewood collection.
“I am very happy with this kind of investment as an environmentalist because the future they are saving is invaluable. You look at environmental degradation going on by the use of charcoal and we now have alternative energy; this is something we should support strongly,” Richard Gafabusa (NRM, Bwamba County) said.
Legislators were also pleased to discover that the investor is making bio-stoves and pressure cookers that use ethanol cooking which they said complements government efforts on wealth creation.
The committee visited the company during its oversight visit to projects where the government has made investments under the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC).
The government has since invested Shs11.9 billion (US$3.2m) in Bukona Agro Processors Company representing a 40.5% shareholding.
MPs were however concerned that, despite the demonstrable potential of the project, the factory runs on diesel when the Nwoya district has a power substation with the capacity to run such a factory.
“What are you thinking to support this investment with billions of shillings and there is no power? What is difficult about extending power here to support production?” asked Gafabusa.
Nwoya East County MP Charles Okello appealed to UDC to expeditiously push the government to extend electricity to the factory.
The committee was equally disturbed upon learning that the factory contracted Nwoya farmers to plant cassava but did not buy it. The farmers allegedly abandoned the factory which is currently buying cassava from Kitgum which is kilometres away.
“The failure of the factory to buy cassava caused problems even with our local leaders; the next time Bukona will go back to ask the same people to supply them cassava, they will not trust them,” Okello said.
The committee asked UDC to urgently approach the Operation Wealth Creation to motivate Nwoya farmers with seeds in order to resume large-scale cassava farming and benefit from the factory.
UDC was also tasked to explain their basis for investing in a project that is a starter moreover without a steady source of raw materials amidst high costs of operations.
“We need to know what convinced you to support this project which we heard that it once collapsed in 2019. How did you reassess the project and how did you reach this amount you are investing? Is there any benefit for government?” asked Catherine Lamwaka (NRM, Omoro District).
The Director of Investment at UDC, Andrew Mugerwa, reiterated the corporation’s commitment to ensure the factory is connected to the national power grid. “We were aware there was no electricity but we made a covenant to make a follow-up on electricity and we shall report on this,” Mugerwa said.
He added that UDC’s basis to invest in Bukona Agro-Processing Company was their business plan which he promised to provide to the committee. The committee recommended a feasibility study on the project to save the government from investing in a venture whose financial viability is not assured.