Sugarcane farmers in court to challenge zoning

Sugarcane farmers have challenged a court ruling barring the setting up on new weighbridges.

The Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) is challenging a ruling in which a sugar sector lobby obtained injunction barring the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) from sanctioning new weighbridges.

At the heart of the legal battle is the economic bloc bringing together 14 counties in Nyanza and Rift Valley.

In the suit filed last March, the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Planters and Workers (Kuspaw) sought an injunction against an LREB policy that would have allowed the establishment of more weighbridges across sugar belts in Nyanza and Western regions.

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The union argued that the move by LREB would fuel cane poaching, where millers construct weighbridges and sugarcane buying centres close to their competitors.

Hurt millers

This, the union argued, would hurt some millers who had invested in cane development by denying them raw material and, ultimately, lead to job losses.

“Accordingly sustained or expanded sugarcane poaching through weighbridges or howsoever is greatly prejudicial to the sugar sector in Kenya and spells devastating consequences for the sector," argued Kuspaw.

The policy, the union added, went against objectives of the Crops Act 2013 and public interest.

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High Court Judge Thrispisa Cherere granted the union's prayers in a ruling dated April 26, effectively bringing into force some form of zoning.

In their application, however, the aggrieved farmers, led by Kesga Secretary General Richard Ogendo, argue that the ruling would confine them to specific millers, which is against prevailing free market forces.

They argued that cane growers ought to have been enjoined in the case from the start.

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Sugarcane farmersKenya Sugarcane Growers AssociationLake Region Economic Bloc