Three suspects were Wednesday arrested and held at Busia Police Station in Busia County over sugar cane poaching. There are concerns this could escalate the battle between two cane crushers in the area.
Police officers acting on a tip from Busia Sugar Industry arrested the three for buying cane from contracted sugarcane farmers in various parts of the county.
A lorry with around seven tonnes of cane harvested from land behind Busibwabo market in Matayos is also being held by the police.
Busia OCPD Masai Makau confirmed the incident and said the suspects would be taken to court after investigations.
Busia Sugar’s Matayos Divisional Supervisor Dickens Makokha alleged the three were from a factory in Olepito owned by West Kenya.
“It is not fair for us to develop raw material only for a rival firm to come and poach it,” he said.
“We signed an agreement with the owner of the sugarcane not to sell to any of our competitors but we were shocked to learn the cane was being poached,” he added.
Millers have intensified the war against sugarcane poaching that has rocked the industry, causing some firms to suspend operations due to lack of raw materials.
Busia Sugar, which is 95 per cent complete, has been protecting its cane plantations as it waits for a Court of Appeal ruling that it hopes will allow it to start milling.
It was scheduled to start operations in July but suffered a major setback when the High Court revoked its licence in March following a petition filed by West Kenya to challenge how the licensing process was conducted.
The court’s verdict has prompted an outcry from farmers accusing the Sugar Directorate under the Agriculture and Food Authority of failing to protect investors and provide a level playground for all players in the industry.
According to Western Development Initiative Association boss Joseph Barasa, the battle between West Kenya and Busia Sugar can only be solved by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett.