Parliament: It could take up to ten years for enterprises in which government has shares to become profitable, the State Minister for Industry, Hon. David Bahati, has told the House Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industries.
Citing enterprises engaging in beverage, sugar and fruit processing, Minister Bahati said that the six are still making loses and will need some time before they can start breaking even.
“We expect that within five to ten years, these companies will start making money and then we pull out. There is one company where we have made some money, the Nile Hotel, that one we got a dividend of Shs500 million,” said Bahati, who was appearing before the Committee together with the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon. Francis Mwebesa, on Thursday.
Bahati said that enterprises like Mbale Growers Tea factory, Kayonza Growers Tea Factory, Soroti Fruits Factory, Budadiri Arabica Coffee Mills Limited, Busoga Sugar Factory, and Atiak Sugar Factory may take up to 10 years to become profitable.
He attributed this to the fact that most of these companies are less than five years old, and it is typical for businesses to suffer losses in their early years.
He said the investments were intended to create employment opportunities, boost local production and reduce Uganda’s dependence on imported goods.
Bwamba County MP, Hon. Richard Gafabusa, questioned why the government was investing taxpayers’ money in the different ventures when there is no guarantee of a return on investment.
He said that the claim that the enterprises were creating employment opportunities is not true as some factories like Atiak Sugar were closed by the time the committee visited the place.
“You cannot break even when you are closed; there is no single kilogramme of sugar in the market from Atiak. Will Atiak make profits when the sugarcane plantations are burnt,” he questioned.
Nwoya East MP, Hon. Okello Charles, tasked the Minister to provide MPs with a prospectus of each of the investments so that members can know which company will make a profit and when.
“Even when a company is anticipated to make profits in ten years, it is recorded down. Can you provide us with those details,” he said.
Committee chairperson, Hon. Mwine Mpaka, asked the Minister to explain when the companies would start making profits saying government had injected billions of money in the enterprises.
Minister Bahati said that the government would continue to closely monitor the performance of these businesses to ensure that they are managed effectively and achieve financial sustainability. He stated that they will come up with a detailed statement on when each of the businesses is expected to start making profits.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) seeks over Shs253 billion for the expansion of the Soroti Fruit Factory, tea processing factories in Luwero, Zombo, and Mitooma, a potato processing plant, cocoa factory, grain value addition among others.
Hon. Mpaka said that as a committee they should go to the ground to ascertain the credibility of the enterprises that UDC seeks to invest in.
“All these projects you are planning to fund, we have to go physically and look at them, because of the challenge of sitting in this room and funding projects that are in a very bad situation.” he said.