Africa-Press – Uganda. The Shs8 billion value addition plant at Awindiri Ward in Arua City that was commissioned by President Museveni one year ago has remained idle.
According to Arua City leaders, they have failed to get a suitable operator, besides lacking guidelines from the line ministry on how to run the business.
The plant is part of the Arua Central Market that was meant to process cereals before they are transferred to Arua Market for sale.
The machines are now dusty with cobwebs, which is worrying authorities that the taxpayer might incur money to have them repaired.
The deputy city clerk, Mr Jobile Cornelius, said: “We are stuck with the plant because we have not been given guidelines. Secondly, we have not secured an operator to manage that business because it can be a costly venture.”
During the commissioning, the producers of cereal crops expressed optimism that the plant would relieve them from traveling long distances to Lira to add value to their products.
Ms Salima Adiru, a dealer in cereals, told the Monitor on Monday that “when they tested this machine last year, I was impressed because it was giving us a first-class product. But I am disappointed that the machines are now idle. Let the city and the central government formalise the issues and start operations”.
Ms Adiru, however, said the plant should be marketed to other districts because the cereals produced from Arua or West Nile may not meet the demands of the plant.
“At the time of testing, the authorities demanded that for any cereal to be grinded, it should be at least one tone. They discouraged grinding on a small scale because of the high costs of running the machines,’’ she added.
During a visit by the Minister for Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, two weeks ago, it was noted that the plant should be contracted to a local business operator.
Mr Magyezi said: “For me, the operator should be a local [investor], let the city procure their own operator, then we [ministry] will monitor and supervise it.”
“We need to give you [Arua City] the guidelines. And this may be in the next one month,” he added.
The Arua Central MP, Mr Jackson Lee Atima, said: “This is becoming a white elephant. If this plant was handed over to us, the city leadership would source out a private entity to operationalise it with proper terms and guidelines so that it begins to help our farmers.”
The crops for value addition in the plant include maize, millet, cassava, and sorghum. It also has machines for packaging and works at the rate of four tonnes per hour if there is uninterrupted power supply.