UGANDA- Atiak Sugar, a leading manufacturer of sugar in Uganda, is leveraging technology to mitigate fire outbreaks and boost production.
With most of the out-growers, experiencing fires guttering thousands of hectares of sugar plantations in the dry season over the past years, the factory decided to invest in irrigation to reduce or mitigate the risks in terms of fires.
While announcing the new development, Mr. Bunty Seeruttun, the director of agriculture at Horyal Investment Holding Company noted that an internet-enabled irrigation system will help mitigate fire outbreaks in the factory and cane plantation.
“This will mitigate fires. It will enable us to get alerts and we shall switch on the center pivot with just a click of a button,” Bunty noted.
This system will be fully fitted with a center -pivot irrigation with automated pipes and a 24-hour surveillance system.
Bunty further clarified that beyond serving in firefighting, the irrigation system will boost their irrigation needs contributing to more cane harvests during the dry season. This will reduce the crop cycle to a year down from the previous 18 months when irrigation was not used.
Meanwhile, the company has been struggling financially following the acquisition of Crane Bank which was their main creditor in 2017. This culminated in the company being unable to restructure its debt until the Uganda government stepped in as an equity partner.
Through Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), the company got additional funding amounting to Shs80 billion in exchange for eight million preferential shares to cater for investments, completion of a new factory and construction of staff houses and offices.
Mr. Mohamud Ahmed, Atiak Sugar’s director of planning and business development, emphasized that no additional resources from UDC were needed to complete the factory; rather, extra funds available will be allocated for sustainability measures, such as irrigation and housing for workers.
“These additional resources are to make the project sustainable. It is not about completing the factory” He noted.
The company also noted that it is keen on repaying the loan obtained from UDC once the factory starts to generate income.
Additionally, Horale Foundation which owns 60 % of Atiak Sugar, remains optimistic that by the end of 2024, the factor will start to produce sugar for local consumption and export since nearly 50 % of the equipment has been installed so far.