Ruto: Government will lease and not privatise sugar factories

Ripe sugarcane awaits harvesting. [File, Standard]

President William Ruto has maintained that the government will proceed with the plan to lease sugar factories in a bid to revive the ailing sector.

Ruto said the plan aims to ensure efficient operations and prudent management of the factories to safeguard the interests of farmers. 

While dismissing claims that his administration was planning to privatize the factories, Ruto said such a plan is not viable as it will be an oppression to cane farmers.

“What we shall not allow is privatisation, the company and the land must belong to the people. We can no longer proceed with a company that does not pay its workers and farmers, we want a company that prioritises the farmers and employees,” said Ruto.

The head of state said the leasing plan will be key in ensuring that resources from the private sector are utilized in upgrading the factories' facilities to enhance efficiency. 

While issuing a stern warning to those involved in the mismanagement of sugar factories, Ruto said “We will not put public money in a hole where farmers are not paid after delivering their produce.” 

The President made the remarks during Sunday Service at Uriri Technical and Vocational College in Migori.

He later launched the institution's digital skills laboratory before visiting the South Nyanza Sugar Company (Sony) where he held talks with sugar farmers from the region.

A section of cane farmers in Awendo and Nyando sugar belts in Migori and Kisumu counties have been supporting the planned leasing of the five State-owned sugar factories saying it is timely and would benefit all farmers.

The State had been banking on the lease to turn around the companies and breathe life into the western Kenya sugar belt through investments in modern technology and efficient management of the millers. 

In 2020, former President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a plan to lease the factories.

The program, which would see the private firms lease the factories for 25 years, however, ran into headwinds when employees of the factories lodged cases in court to stop the process.

This was largely on account of money owed to them in unpaid salaries. 

The Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers (Kuspaw) had also sought the suspension of the leasing process at the industrial court, noting that the Government should address issues raised by workers of sugar companies.

These included payment of outstanding salary arrears and statutory deductions.

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