Uganda Lawmakers to Mull Rainforest Allocation to Sugar Company

Ugandan lawmakers will decide whether to allow part of the Mabira Forest Reserve to be used for sugar production, President Yoweri Museveni said.

Museveni said on Aug. 14 that a portion of the rainforest, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) east of Kampala, should be given to Sugar Corp. of Uganda Ltd., the nation’s third-largest producer.

“This is not an executive order, it will be a parliamentary decision,” he said in a statement e-mailed by his office yesterday.

Uganda is seeking to boost sugar output after prices for the sweetener more than doubled in the past two months amid reduced cane supplies, forcing the government to abolish an import tax on the commodity to cover the shortfall.

Sugar Corp. is jointly owned by the Mumbai-based Mehta Group and the Ugandan government. Environmental groups including Nature Uganda oppose the allocation of the land because the forest is home to endangered monkey species and 300 types of birds, as well as being a catchment area for Lake Victoria.

The initial allocation of part of the forest to the company in 2007 led to protests in Kampala in which at least six people died, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.

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