Plans by a Kisumu tycoon to set up a Sh940 million sugar factory in Siaya County have elicited sharp reactions in the wake of a crippling raw material shortage.
Sugarcane growers and sector workers want Kisumu businessman and owner of Foam Mattresses Limited, Surendra Patel, to first come up with a proper cane development plan before setting up the proposed South Gem Sugar Factory.
Mr Patel and his business partner have purchased 40 acres of land in Gem to set up the miller and are in the process of acquiring relevant approvals.
Feasibility studies show that he will need to develop 8,000 acres of cane to sustain the plant's proposed 1,000 tonnes per day crushing capacity.
The Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association secretary-general, Richard Ogendo, said the venture would be sustainable if its catchment area is restricted to the Yala Swamp basin, without invading the zones of neighbouring factories.
"The problem with private millers is that they usually come in without developing their own cane and end up posing unnecessary competition to established plants by eating into their catchment areas. There is no other miller in the area and they can, therefore, take advantage of this to develop their own cane," he said in an interview.
His Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers counterpart, Francis Wangara, while welcoming the new miller, said the investors must first contract enough farmers to sustain their operations without interfering with other millers.
"This issue of private millers setting up factories without first developing their own cane is not welcome at all," he said.