Ruto promises to breathe life into Mumias Sugar, write off debts

Former Mumias sugar campany employees and farmers protesting at Mwitoti area in Mumias East on January10, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa,  Standard]

President William Ruto has promised to breathe life into the struggling Mumias Sugar Company by next month.

Ruto on Saturday said the firm will get a new milling machine to replace the older one.

Speaking in Lurambi Constituency Kakamega County during his five day working tour in Western region, Ruto said the modern machine will enable the once giant miller to crush cane efficiently.

“We have to fix our Mumias Sugar factory and Nzoia sugar company and I promised to do that, I am going to bring a modern crushing machine so that we can do away with the old one in order to enable the factory work smoothly,” said Ruto.

The head of state said in a few weeks’ time, he will solve the problems bedeviling the state-owned sugar factories across the country, especially the debts.

“As I speak right now I have taken a memorandum before the national assembly. I have asked the members of parliament to write off the debt facing our state owned cane millers, “said Ruto.

Furthermore, he said he is banking on members of parliament to assist him in sorting out the mess that is facing the sugar sector in Kenya.

“I promise the people of this country that I will write off all debts amounting to Sh117 billion facing our factories. We have passed in our cabinet to write off the debts and the matter is before the national assembly. I know in the next few weeks the legislators will have to write off the debts as the first step so that I can plan well on the issue of sugarcane,” said Ruto.

“We have to sort out the issue of sugar because it affects and touches the majority of Kenyans and that is what we are doing currently,” he added.

Ruto reiterated that no public sugar factory would be privatised stating that the millers would only undergo leasing in order to improve their performance.

Ruto’s sentiments were echoed by Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa who said the idea to write off the debts and to come to the aid of ailing sugar industries, especially the Mumias sugar factory was due.

"We want to assure the president that as leaders we will support him in reviving Mumias factory and the cane sector at large. Our farmers, especially those who used to take their cane to Mumias have suffered a lot and we welcome the decision to revive the bedridden Mumias factory and the cane farming by writing off debts,” said Barasa.

Two months ago National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula said the newly modern purchased crushing machine for Nzoia Sugar factory in Bungoma will be installed during the President's visit in the county to stabilise the operation of the sugar factory and improve its crushing capacity.

Early this week National Treasury sought Parliament’s approval to write off Sh117.64 billion in loans and tax penalties accrued by five sugar millers.

The memorandum tabled before the national assembly seeks to revive and commercialise state-owned sugar companies including Chemelil, South Nyanza, Nzoia, Muhoroni, and Miwani sugar factories.

Of the amount, the Treasury is seeking to write off Sh65.8 billion owed to the government and Kenya Sugar Board as at June 30.

Additionally, the treasury is seeking Parliament’s approval to write off tax penalties and interest estimated at Sh50.14 billion and further a payment plan for balances owed to farmers amounting to Sh1.7 billion to be worked out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

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