Growing demand for electricity spurs sugarcane farming in Uganda

kakiraExpansion of Kakira Sugar Company in Jinja Uganda to meet rising sugar demand and electricity production has incentivized smallholder farmers in the area who supply over 60 percent of the cane, now earning 30 percent more per tonne delivered.

The expansion process which is ongoing was necessitated by the need to increase the rate of electricity production of the plant using bagasse, a sugarcane by product used in electricity production, which also means that the rate of sugar production from the plant in metric tonnes will be increased significantly. “The plant has been using low pressure boilers which consume more bagasse and produce less electricity of about 14 megawatts. However, considering the problem of electricity deficit in Uganda coupled with the need to increase the renewable energy supply while conserving fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions,  Kakira Sugar has decided to expand its electricity co-generation capacity to a capacity of over 50megawatts,” noted Mugambwa Lawrence an engineer working at the company.

The new high pressure boilers installed at the plant is a major boost to a country grappling with power rationing, commonly known in Uganda as load due to rising demand for power which has almost doubled in the last five years as more investors set up shop.  The capacity of Kakira's expanded co-generation not only meets the entire increased needs of the sugar factory and infrastructure on a 24 hour per day basis but also supplies electricity to the National Grid. “Out of the 50MW produced at the plant, over 32MW is exported to the national grid at almost half the market price of Sh6 per Kilowatt. This is the lowest price in the market with most leading generation companies selling at double this figure and this mainly signifies our efforts towards ensuring affordable power tariffs to the consumers,” explained Mugwamba.

The expansion has also increased the metric tonnes of sugarcane crushed per day by the plant from 6000tonnes to about 7500tonnes. This means that there is increased demand for the sugarcane from our farmers who contribute over 60 percent of the cane crushed. “To ensure a constant flow of the production chain, we have to try to issue these farmers incentives to grow more sugarcane and lure others to come on board hence the increase in price per ton paid to farmers from Sh1800 to Sh2300,” explained Mugambwa. He noted that the long-term goal is that the company hopes to impact positively on the livelihoods of the farmers as  majority embrace sugarcane growing.  

Apart from increasing the rate of electricity and sugar production in the country, the new high pressure boilers are also environmental friendly as they mitigate the environment against polluting carbons and fumes unlike the commonly used low pressure boilers. Mugambwa explained, “Low pressure boilers emit fly ash and carbons consequently polluting the environment as opposed to the new high pressure boilers which have an electro static precipitator which cleans the gas before being emitted to the environment.”

This new development is geared towards ensuring increased and constant flow of sugar and electricity in the market. The gains made by this initiative will also try to cushion the country against the rampant cases of sugar shortages which impact greatly on the common man as the prices sometimes triple as evidenced in 2011 where sugar prices were hiked due to low supply of sugarcane and a kilo sold around Sh150 from Sh60. The case is no different with electricity because before the construction of Bujagali Hydro Electric Energy Dam, the country was subjected to 24 hour load shedding a fact that greatly slowed down economic growth as many business entities depend on power for their survival.