UGANDA – Uganda is betting on Ethiopia first lady, Azeb Mesfin Haile to reverse the fortunes of struggling state-owned Soroti Fruit Factory that has been continuously making losses. 

In a statement by the prime minister, Robinah Nabbanja, the government through the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) is seeking to develop regulations for the proposed partnership with Ethiopia first lady, Azeb Mesfin Haile, that will see the latter mandated to manage the fruit factory. 

The move has however had mixed reaction from the public with various people have aired out their concerns on the privatization of the factory. 

Soroti West Division MP Jonathan Ebwalu is among the opposing figures. He says the proposed privatization will keep people in poverty despite its intended purpose to improve the socio-economic well-being of the people of Teso. 

In a response to a concern by Soroti West division MP Jonathan Ebwalu on the matter, she said;Soroti Fruit Factory has not been given out. The factory had limitations that can be done away with. UDC has mismanaged this factory, but the President said the former first lady of Ethiopia has capacity to help us revamp the factory.” 

Following investigations by the Committee of Trade into the mismanagement of the fruit factory, the committee drafted recommendations to help in reviving the factory. 

Part of the recommendations was that 20 percent of the shares in the factory, allegedly owned by Teso Tropical Fruits Cooperative Union, be opened to other farmer cooperatives and unions in Teso sub-region for subscription and acquisition of interest to the company. 

The Committee also recommended that the IGG investigates the CEO (Ndawula Douglas) and the entire management of the factory for possible inflation of the cost of operations and other related expenditures in financial year 2020/2021. 

Additionally, the committee recommended the government provides the factory with funds to procure an orange fruit processing line for the fruit predominantly grown by farmers in the Teso sub-region. 

In September, the state minister for Teso affairs, Kenneth Ongalo, had confirmed that the government had started sourcing for a private entity that would take over the operations of Soroti fruit factory according to a report by Kfm. 

“The president asked the prime minister to engage the relevant government entities to have the fruit factory privatized, and I am part of the team that is working on the matter,” said Kenneth. 

Soroti fruit factory is 80% owned by the government through the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) while the 20% shares are owned by the farmers through the Teso Tropical Fruit Growers Cooperative Union. 

The factory recently announced an emergency purchase of oranges in a strategic move to support local farmers and ensure the continuous operation of the Soroti Fruit Factory, management announced an emergency purchase of oranges. 

 The factory is set to buy up to 1 million kilograms of oranges from local farmers as they navigate challenges related to inadequate funding and the need for improved supply chain connections. 

While speaking in parliament, Soroti county MP Patrick Aeku called on the Prime Minister to arrange for spraying of orange fruits in the district which have been attacked by an unknown pest. 

The prime minister assured she would liase with the MP to provide a technical solution to facilitate improved fruit harvest.