Sugarcane farmers will be paid the Sh2.7 billion owed to them by millers by the end of next week, the National Sugar Task Force has said.
The task force yesterday suspended public hearings on the issues facing the sugar sector that were to kick off yesterday.
“We have agreed to suspend all consultations with leaders and other stakeholders until the farmers are paid,” said Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who co-chairs the committee with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri after the aborted inaugural meeting in Kisumu yesterday.
The payment of farmers’ arrears was initially scheduled for December before it was pushed to yesterday. Mr Kiunjuri said this was to facilitate the auditing genuine beneficiaries.
Earlier, the region’s leaders made Mr Oparanya to call National Treasury Cabinet Henry Rotich during the meeting to confirm when the funds would be released.
He said the CS had confirmed that the money would be released to the Agriculture Ministry by next Friday, from where it would be wired to farmers’ accounts.
He said the exchequer had run into technical hitches with the Integrated Finance Management Information System (Ifmis), causing delays in releasing the funds.
“Rotich says they only received the report on payment from the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday last week and are processing the money,” he said when he was asked by the leaders to say when the payment would be made. Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe, who is the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, kicked off the debate when he asked about the status of the payment.
The task force, which was formed last month to look into the issues affecting the industry, had planned to meet farmers who supply cane to various millers with the aim of incorporating their views in their final report to be presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta later this month.
Lawmakers from the cane-growing areas warned that the process would not kick off until farmers got their money and that any attempts to hold further meetings would be met with hostility. The team was hard-pressed to explain why the directive by the President three months ago to pay farmers had not been effected.