Sugarcane farmers welcome new pricing by millers

Robison Wandera an agronomist in Western Kenya demonstrates to farmers on the methods to plant their sugarcane for maximised yields. [Michael Mute, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers in Western have welcomed the move by local sugar millers to increase cane prices.

They are confident the prices will improve further due to the growing demand for sugarcane and the skyrocketing sugar prices.

In a notice on revised cane prices per tonne, West Kenya Sugar Company Limited has committed to start paying farmers Sh5,250 per tonne effective March 23, 2023 up from Sh4,584.

Butali Sugar Mills Limited also notified farmers that effective March, 20, 2023, it will be paying Sh5,200 per tone up from Sh4,800.

The development came as good news to thousands of sugar cane farmers in Kakamega, Bungoma, Nandi, Busia and Siaya counties who incur huge expenses in cane development.

Speaking to The Standard, Butali Sugarcane Farmers Association chairman William Kopi said farmers were excited at the prospect of increased revenue.

"Farmers are exited although millers are experiencing cane shortage and sugar prices continue to surge. The new prices per tone will encourage farmers to supply cane and expand their acreage under sugarcane," Kopi said.

He added: "We are optimistic cane prices will continue improving up to Sh6,000 per tonne so that farmers can reap from their sweat. My wish is for the government to empower cane farmers by introducing subsidised fertilers," said Kopi.

Never gone up

John Mulupi, a cane farmer from Kakamega North, welcomed the news. "I have been growing sugarcane for more than 10 years now but prices have never gone this high. I believe cane farmers have a bright future," he said.

He added: "I am glad that some factories have taken that route. It is long overdue. The government should keep a close eye on all factories with a view to ensuring the farmers get what they deserve. We are hopeful that the prices will continue going up because the cost of producing sugarcane has also increased."

Keys Simiyu, a farmer from Navakholo, said cane growing has become a lucrative venture with the increasing prices.

"There was a time a farmer could be paid as low as Sh2,000 per tonne and payment was delayed for months," Simiyu said.

The government, through the Cane Pricing Committee, directed an increase per tonne of sugarcane from Sh4,480 to Sh4,584.

The new price that took effect on April 29 last year is the highest the government has ever directed local sugar factories to pay sugarcane farmers.

Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers said the biting raw material shortage could have forced millers to increase cane prices beyond the ceiling set by the cane pricing committee.

"Some farmers who have mature cane will benefit but it is not a good thing for the economy. We need a structured way of establishing and harvesting sugarcane to avert shortage in future and for proper planning so that farmers can be assured to stable cane prices throughout," said the federation Deputy Secretary General Simon Wesechere.

Farmers believe the prices would still be better if the smuggling of sugar into the local market is stopped.

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