At the Ramisi stage along the Likoni-Lunga Lunga highway, chimneys spew a cloud of white smoke.
Workers and machine race against time as Kwale International Sugar Company Ltd (Kiscol) tries to make up for lost time after one and half years of closure.
The closure came about after the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) moved to court and obtained orders barring Kiscol from operating over alleged bad sugar. Kiscol’s management, however, sought reversal of the order and won.
“Having the factory stop operations brought in old and sad memories. We all know what transpired when the former Ramisi Sugar Company ceased operations in the late 80s, sending hundreds of farmers into despair and poverty,” said David Ndirangu, a sugar cane farmer and chairman of the Kwale Sugar Cane Farmers Cooperative Society.
SEE ALSO: State sacks boards of troubled sugar millers
Another farmer, Mohamed Nyonyo, said the closure of the factory hit farmers hard, and many contemplated quitting cane growing.
“In anticipation of bumper harvests and good proceeds from the sale of cane to Kiscol, we cleared our land and cut down cashew nuts, coconut, mangoes and bixa crops to grow cane. We are excited at the prospects of a bumper harvest and cooperation with the miller,” he said at his farm in Kwale County.
During a recent visit to the sugar miller, Financial Standard
found workers offloading cane at the weighing bay ready for crushing.
In the expansive nucleus farm, an army of cane cutters numbering over 500 and backed by machines was busy harvesting cane.
SEE ALSO: Future of Kenya’s economy relies on agriculture
Assistant General Manager Anil Mahabirsingh said they have put 9,487 hectares under cane.
Out of this, the firm’s nucleus estate has taken up 4,791 hectares, with another 4696.52 hectares under the outgrowers.
“To date, we have 1,800 hectares irrigated with firm plans to have at least 3,300 hectares fully irrigated,” said Mr Anil.
Irrigation Manager Yuval Levi said they have pioneered in the use of drip irrigation in cane farming in the country.
He said Kiscol plans to mechanise all its farm operations after a cash injection from investors.
SEE ALSO: Manufacturers want ban on cane import lifted
Chief Engineer Samuel Okeyo said their co-generation process produces 18 megawatts (MW) of electricity, with 3.5MW going to powering irrigation and 4.5MW to sugar processing, leaving 10 MW for sale to the national power grid.