Cash-strapped sugar millers turn to sanitisers to shore up revenues
By Kepher Otieno | April 16th 2020
Sugarcane millers are taking advantage of the demand for hand sanitisers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to diversify their revenue streams.
Kenya Sugar Millers Association (Kesma) Chairman Jayanti Patel said the demand for sugar products, such as molasses, to make sanitisers had increased.
"Before coronavirus, the demand for sanitisers was very low, but now it has gone up," he said.
One of the millers that has taken up the production of hand sanitisers is Muhoroni Sugar Factory, which is making the in-demand commodity from ethanol, a sugarcane by-product.
Kibos and Butali have also started rolling out the hand hygiene product, while Sony, Chemilil, Nzoia are in the process of doing so.
''Our members are making them using WHO guidelines and standards,'' said Mr Patel.
Sales of hand sanitisers, disinfectants and germ-killing soaps have surged in recent months as consumers take precautionary measures to protect themselves from Covid-19.
Muhoroni Receiver Manager Francis Ooko said the use of molasses had enabled them to cut production costs significantly and they are, therefore, able to price their products at competitive rates.
Farmers have appealed to the millers to issue them with free face masks and hand sanitisers to shield them from the virus.
Speaking to the press in Kisumu, Kenya National Sugarcane Federation Secretary-General Ezra Okoth appealed to millers to help out farmers.
''This is the time that the millers should come to farmers' aid under corporate social responsibility programmes by buying and distributing hand sanitisers,'' said Mr Okoth, adding that they should also sensitise farmers on how to protect themselves from the virus.
State-owned millers have been struggling with ballooning debt, forcing them to diversify their operations amid low cane supplies. They have also had to contend with cane smuggling and dumping, high production costs and inadequate research funding.
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