By Standard Reporter
Kakamega and Busia counties residents have given State an ultimatum to solve sugarcane-poaching crisis or they cripple sugar production in the region.
The farmers want the State to stop West Kenya Sugar Company from poaching cane belonging to Mumias Sugar Company (MSC), Nzoia Sugar Company and Butali Sugar Company. They say cane poaching has adversely affected sugar development and production. They threatened to call for demonstrations and block link roads in the region.
“We are angry and tired of a single operator trying to kill the only economic backbone,” said Mr Jacob Mirimo. West Kenya is a private miller located near Kakamega town. The farmers said after a meeting in Mumias town that a senior politician is involved in the activities of the offending firm and want a presidential intervention.
Recently, West Kenya argued that it gets cane from independent farmers who grow the crop. It also rubbished cane-poaching claims and asked rival millers to prove. “There are private cane farmers in Busia and Bungoma Counties who are not contracted to any mill and are free to sell their crop to a miller of their choice,” said Michael Mechumo, the human resource manager at West Kenya. Mechumo added that the millers should not force private farmers to sell cane to them.
Last week, MSC announced it is set to lose about 72,000 tonnes of sugar a year due to cane poaching from its contracted farmers.
The farmers are concerned that cane poaching is likely to affect sugar firms operating in the region.
“We are not prepared and we are not going to let a single private company play a leading role in the collapse of the country’s leading sugar producer in which we also invested millions like we witnessed it happening to Pan paper Mills Ltd,” said Mirimo.
They want West Kenya to invest in its own cane instead of poaching from rival millers.