Slow pace of sugar sector reforms leaves farmers a bitter lot

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Kepher Otieno | April 20th 2021
A middle-aged man transports dry canes at Mumias sugar zone, June 11, 2020. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Nearly a year after the National Task Force Report on the sorry state of the sugar industry, farmers are disappointed the proposed leasing of the six State-owned factories is yet to begin.

They say the factories are still facing financial difficulties despite President Uhuru Kenyatta directing Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to fast track the revival of the sector.

Most of the factories are unable to operate at the installed optimum production capacity and are sinking into debt.

Cane farmers led by the Kenya Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KFSF) Secretary-General Ezra Okoth said there is no political goodwill to revive the sector.  

“This is our assumption because since the National Task Force Report on sugar came out, nothing has happened. The firms owe us billions of shillings for supplies,’’ said Okoth. The report highlighted 10 issues cane farmers wanted addressed to save the sector from total collapse.

The suggested actions included bringing back the Sugar Act, 2001 and creating new rules anchored on the task force’s recommendations.

The report also proposed a review of imports rules and regulations and the revival of the defunct Kenya Sugar Board (KSB). Other concerns included acute shortage of cane, lack of adequate research and funding to support cane development, low sucrose yield and low-value addition.

The proposals for reviving the sector included facilitating extension services, variety and soil matching, disease and pest control, soil and plant tissue testing.

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