Privatising sugar factories may not be the solution to the challenges facing the sector, according to cane farmers in Nyanza.
The farmers, who spoke under the auspices of a parallel task force christened Sugar Veterans Consultative Forum (Suveco) that looking into farmers' woes, said giving ownership of the mills to growers would make more sense.
"Privatising the mills will disenfranchise farmers because decisions will be based on maximising profits at the expense of local farmers and communities," said Suveco Secretary Priver Toywa.
Mr Toywa, a former agronomist at Mumias Sugar Company, said farmers and local communities should instead be given a major stake in the factories as the only way to safeguard their interests.
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Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers chairman Saul Busolo yesterday said allowing farmers to own the sugar mills was the only viable solution to the industry.
But former Mumias director Eliud Kakai dismissed the idea of localising sugar firms to be owned by growers from a particular region, saying this would balkanise the troubled sugar industry.
"It will be a good idea for private investors to manage public millers and it will also be good for farmers to buy shares in these firms. However, whatever we do, let us consider the best interests of the industry," said Kakai.
Mr Otieno Mikara, a sugarcane farmer, said: "We want to see the Government create safety nets for thousands of farmers and workers in the sugar factories against job loss.