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President Uhuru Kenyatta rejects calls to waive cane debt

By John Shilitsa and Alex Wakhisi | Updated Mon, December 19th 2016 at 07:28 GMT +3
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Deputy William Ruto and Bungoma governor Ken Lusaka acknowledge greetings of Mt. Elgon residents before addressing them at Kopsiro Primary School in Mt Elgon Bungoma County on December 15, 2016. PHOTO: BENJAMIN SAKWA

Sugarcane farmers were left with a bitter taste in the mouth after President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected their calls to have Sh3.5 billion sugar debts written off.

The farmers, through Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, had petitioned the President to consider waiving the debts owed to the State by out grower companies they belong to.

They argued that just like coffee farmers whose Sh2 billion debts were written off by President Kenyatta, sugar debts must be looked into to help empower farmers.

OUT OF BUSINESS

The President did not to talk about the issue during his two-day tour of the region, but underscored the Government’s commitment to revamp Mumias Sugar Company.

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He said the Government has so far injected close to Sh3 billion in the struggling sugar firm.

Local leaders led by Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali had urged the President to look into the farmers’ plight and have the debts waived.

According to Mr Washiali, the huge debts had pushed most farmers out of business.

“Farmers are overburdened by the debts. They have to be waived to help the growers back on their feet again,” said the legislator.

The federation deputy secretary general Simon Wesechere said they were surprised President Uhuru ignored the farmers’ plight.

“We expected him not to think twice about our request because these debts have left farmers poor making it impossible for them to develop sugarcane,” he told The Standard in a telephone interview yesterday.

Coffee farmers from Bungoma had also demanded to have their debts written off but their wish was not granted.

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According to Wesechere, the debts include funds lend to the outgrower firms including moribund Mumias Outgrowers Company, Busia Outgrowers Company and Nzoia Outgrowers Company among others.

He said the debts are borne by the farmers who are compelled to service the loan through cane production.

Meanwhile, the Government has promised to handle insecurity at Malaba border and Mumias.

During his two-day tour of western region, President Kenyatta assured local leaders that the Government will intervene to salvage the situation.

“The Government will move with speed to handle the issues raised by leaders in the region. We will ensure we address the issue of insecurity and unemployment in the region with the urgency they deserve,” Uhuru said.

In Mumias where Booker Police Post was attacked recently with seven guns and 180 bullets stolen, former Orange Democratic Movement national youth leader Rashid Mohamed asked Uhuru to increase the number of security vehicles.

“Mr President, in Mumias we have two divisions. We need extra police vehicles for the officers to contain insecurity on time,” said Mohamed.

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