KAMPALA: Uganda has dismissed claims of land grabbing made against Bidco in a statement from its Agriculture Minister Vincent Rubarema.
The clarification by the Uganda authorities is likely to boost operations of the Kenyan edible oils manufacturer in the neighbouring country. Mr Rubarema said in a statement that the land Bidco is using to grow palm oil trees is owned by the government.
"The Government of Uganda was solely responsible for the acquisition of the land for the project. This was our exclusive role as per the partnership agreement," he said. Part of the land leased from a private land owner for the project is now subject of a civil suit filed in a Ugandan court by people thought to be squatters and is currently pending determination.
Bidco, owned by the family of billionaire manufacturer Vimal Shah, has come under heavy criticism over allegations of land grabbing and displacement of thousands of people in Kalangala District of Uganda. The firm uses the harvest as raw materials for the production of edible oils that are sold across Eastern Africa.
The palm oil project known as Vegetable Oil Development Programme (VODP) is under development in the Bugala Island within Lake Victoria, where Bidco is among investors in the mega plantation. VODP was actually an initiative of the State, the minister said.
The UK government is also a major investor in the more than 16,000 acres palm oil farm. A civil society group known as Friends of the Earth claimed earlier this year that officials of the Ugandan palm oil firm should be prosecuted for displacing thousands of locals from their farms.
Rubarema said the agreement entered in 2006 between the Uganda government, Oil Palm Uganda and Kalangala Oil Palm Grower Trust was above board, adding: "To ensure the land acquisition process is conducted in a proper and rigorous manner, the Government set up a Land Acquisition Task Force representing all stakeholders, including the people who claim to have been displaced."