Soroti fruit factory has acquired five more acres of land for its expansion following an outcry from farmers over the limited production capacity. The land acquisition is geared towards addressing limited production in the next three years.
By the time of its establishment in 2019, statistics suggested that Teso sub-region had more than eight million fruit trees to support the production of juice. But when the factory started production, less than half of the farmers in Teso were able to supply fruits to the factory.
The factory restricted its purchase of oranges to registered farmer groups and associations. This forced some farmers to cut down orange trees in different parts of Teso. The factory serving more than 30 districts in Eastern Uganda had registered only 63 groups to supply oranges and mangoes on order.
This left several trucks carrying fruits queueing at the factory premises for days. The situation at Soroti Fruit Factory attracted the attention of local leaders and Members of Parliament who carried out a special audit at the facility.
Julius Martin Ekomu, the Finance Manager at Soroti Fruit Limited, says that they have commenced plans to expand the factory with the allocation of UGX. 56.9Bn from the government. He says that the expansion plans include the acquisition of land for the warehouses and a water cleaning system.
Ekomu says that they have installed a new mango line with the capacity to crush 120 metric tons per day. This according to Ekomu is an improvement from the lone 48 metric tons orange line that has been in use since 2019. The factory is also installing a weighbridge to ease work for both the farmers and staff.
The factory that sits in the industrial and business park is under the Uganda Investment Authority. It’s manned by Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), which owns 80 percent shares while Teso Tropical Cooperative Union holds 20 percent.
Soroti Fruit Factory is funded by the Korea International Development Agency (KOICA) and the Government of Uganda through (UDC) while UIA provided the land.
On February 8, 2022, Jonathan Ebwalu, the Soroti City West Division MP raised several allegations on the floor of Parliament of gross abuse of office and resources, and unfulfilled financial obligations affecting the factory. This prompted the Deputy Speaker of Parliament then, Anita Among to order an investigation into the claims.
In the fact-finding report compiled by a team led by the Mbarara City South MP Mwine Mpaka, the committee revealed several irregularities which included the rotting of the farmers fruits due to the limited capacity of the factory to consume the fruits being harvested and supplied to them, financial mismanagement and administrative flaws.
This later attracted the attention of the President who delegated his Vice President Jessica Alupo to intervene. According to Ekomu, they have a three-year development plan to put the factory into a position that will change the lives of the people in Eastern Uganda.