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UGANDA: Regime gives tax breaks on imports from Brazil, taxes locals into poverty

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Big hearted Uganda sweetening the lives of Brazilian farmers and killing its own

THE EAST AFRICAN – Local sugar prices nosedived. Sugar millers suddenly could not even sell to the home market. They took the only option available, they stopped buying cane.

Many of us quietly regard as unrealistic some biblical teachings such those that say we should turn the other cheek, gouge out your eye if it tempts you to sin, forgiving someone 70 times seven, and being prepared to lay down your life for others to show your love for them.

But with time, we have come to realise that this kind of love can actually be demonstrated by nations towards others. At least that is what Uganda is doing now; laying down the livelihoods of its farmers so that farmers in other countries like Brazil can grow richer.

We, the big hearted nation of Uganda, have started killing off our farmers systematically, a courageous feat that involves destroying local farms by subjecting their produce to high taxation while similar imports enter the country tax free. It is that simple.

Though our president has repeatedly decried the “donating of jobs” to big economies abroad from where we import almost all our manufactured and industrial goods while exporting so little, the value of Uganda’s imports in a year remains about three times more than the exports.

The further irony in this is that even after our young people go to work abroad, we still use their remittances to buy low quality imports. So besides what they spend to maintain themselves where they work, the rest of their earnings still end up “donating jobs” outside.

Now our big heartedness is serving farmers out there by importing basic foodstuffs. The latest victims we have decided to kill off are 100,000 sugarcane growers especially in Busoga and Bunyoro sub-regions.

For the past decade or two, much effort has gone into developing the local sugar subsector, which last year contributed Ush300 billion ($84 million) to the Treasury in taxes.

The three largest millers had developed an impressive outgrowers’ system that has seen many smallholder farmers develop their cane farms of 10, 20, or 50 acres and earning a decent living. And then around October last year (ironically the country’s Independence anniversary time) some people in government decided to relax either the rules or their enforcement, and a flood of untaxed sugar from Brazil was allowed into the country.

Local sugar prices nosedived. Sugar millers, who had earlier been given access to the Kenyan market under EAC principles, suddenly could not even sell to the home market. They took the only option available, they stopped buying cane.

The farmers’ outcry elicited some vague statement from the government to parliament that an unprecedented wave of smuggling of Kenyan sugar into Uganda was to blame.

But how had Kenya, with its sugar shortage, suddenly got a massive surplus that in a couple of months had messed Uganda’s sugar industry? The answer was boda boda.

A ministerial statement said boda boda cyclists were smuggling sugar into Uganda from Kenya, but did not say anything about the role of boda boda in the thousands of tonnes of sugar dumped in Kenya from Brazil, packed and branded as made in Uganda.

Given the amount of sugar flooding the Ugandan market, reportedly brought in by boda boda, it is a miracle that one can still find a rider in the Ugandan interior beyond the Kenya border.

If farming is the backbone of the economy as we have always been taught, then greater love hath no man than he who donates his own backbone to enrich strangers.

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