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Stop forcing Devki down our throats, angry cane farmers tell Oparanya

BUSINESS
By Mireri Junior | June 14th 2021

Sugarcane farmers hold a demonstration at Ekero area in Mumias over the ongoing debate on the planned leasing of stalled Mumias Sugar Factory. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

A section of sugarcane farmers from Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega have accused Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya of meddling in the leasing process of troubled Mumias Sugar Company.

The farmers on Monday, June 14 claimed Governor Oparanya was misadvising embattled Mumias Sugar Receiver Manager Ponangipalli Venkata Ramana Rao to ignore the recent Senate directive on the leasing process.

The Senate’s Committee on Agriculture last week directed Rao to re-advertise the leasing process afresh in the next two weeks.

The farmers told Governor Oparanya to keep off the controversial leasing debate, saying the Senate had pronounced itself on the matter.

Led by the Kenya Association of Sugar and Allied Products Secretary-General Peter Odima and his Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmer's counterpart Simon Wesechere the farmers cautioned Rao against insisting on Devki Groups of Companies yet the Senate has ruled otherwise.

According to Odima and Wesechere, Governor Oparanya had nine years to revive Mumias but failed therefore should not interfere in the leasing process.

“As farmers, we shall resist any skewed plans to force an investor down our throat. Let the governor finish his term and go home,” said Odima.

Boniface Manda, another cane farmer asked Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to ignore any advice from the governor, adding that he did not mean well for the stalled sugar miller.

“We are privy to the information that governor Oparanya is asking Rao to ignore the recommendations of the Senate and bring in Devki by force, we shall resist,” said Manda.

While dismissing the committee's last week directive, Oparanya over the weekend, said the committee had no powers to direct the receiver-manager on how to carry out the process.

The Senate waded into the matter following concerns from the farmers, leaders and other stakeholders who said the process was not transparent.

The Committee also faulted Rao for failing to publicly advertise the leasing process of the troubled miller.

The company had allegedly entered a Sh5 billion private deal with the miller before pulling out last week citing public outcry.

Devki Group chairman, Narendra Raval, cited the ongoing public interest which “the matter” has attracted and the call for a publicly run bidding exercise.

“We have found it worthwhile to take out our application. We will however express interest, should the exercise be conducted in consultation with all the stakeholders,” Raval said in a statement.

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