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Governors in push for bail-out of cane firms

By Protus Onyango | Published Thu, August 23rd 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 22nd 2018 at 23:25 GMT +3
Kakamega Governor Whycliffe Oparanya when he appeared before the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee on audit queries at Parliament. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

Fourteen governors are pushing for a Sh84 billion bail-out for public sugar factories.

A forensic audit of the millers, restricted sugar imports and review of the Sugar Act to introduce zoning to curb cane poaching are among recommendations to be implemented to revive the ailing sugar industry.

These were discussed by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Competition Authority of Kenya, chief executive officers of millers, governors, senators and MPs from the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) during a meeting at Windsor Hotel in Nairobi last week.

Repeal Act        

The meeting agreed that Government should immediately inject capital into all public sugar millers to pay debts owed to the Kenya Revenue Authority, farmers, commercial banks and suppliers.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya (pictured) said the meeting, which was held following a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta, resolved to repeal the Sugar Act, noting it was responsible for the disorder in sugar farming in the country.

He said mismanagement of public millers and uncontrolled importation were also responsible for the near-collapse of the sugar industry, adding that Mumias, Miwani and Awendo factories had stopped crushing cane while Nzoia and Muhoroni “are in the intensive care unit”.

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“We agreed with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who represented Uhuru at the meeting, and his Principal Secretary Dr Richard Lesiyampe, that we repeal the Sugar Act 2013 to give sugarcane a special status and legalise zoning, which has created conflict among farmers,” Mr Oparanya said.

He said they proposed to have millers operate within a radius of 40km from each other.

Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati said a planned forensic audit would show the true financial health of millers and determine how much money each miller required for resuscitation.

“We have no choice but to revive sugarcane farming so that in the future, there is no window for importing toxic sugar,” Mr Wangamati said.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said the proposed regulations had been gazetted and were being implemented.

Abolish deductions

“The law on zoning is being implemented and we are optimistic that others on financing the sugar sector, reviving co-operatives, re-introducing the sugar development levy to spur research and improve infrastructure will be implemented soon,” Prof Nyong’o said.

He said they had also agreed that factories should start crushing cane immediately and statutory deductions owed to Government should be abolished.


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