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Farmers back parallel sugar team

A newly formed outfit to champion the rights of sugarcane farmers has been touring the western region to collect views from stakeholders.

Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Organisations (KNASFO) was in Mumias on Tuesday and later pitched tent in Busia yesterday to meet farmers.

A raft of issues including Sugar Development Levy, payment of cane farmers, zoning, deregulation of the sugar industry, among others were discussed at the meeting attended by farmers allied to millers; Busia Sugar Industries and Olepito.  

KNASFO interim chairman Saulo Busolo castigated the composition of task force President Uhuru Kenyatta constituted last year to look into challenges bedeviling the local sugar sub sector and recommend the solution. 

According to Busolo, the team co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya lacked farmer’s representative but was dominated by officials from sugar factories and politicians. 

“Our main objective is to conduct public participation with farmers to hear from them what is affecting sugar sector. State owned mills are the biggest let down, they get sugarcane and crush, sell the sugar but fail to pay farmers,” said Busolo.  

He added, “Our main problem is payment, people swindled money but they are holding the government at a ransom to pay farmers, that is wrong. 

The farmers opposed the zoning proposal and argued that they should be allowed to sell their cane to millers located outside their regions. “If what we are doing was illegal farmers would not be coming to our meeting,” said Busolo.  

He told off those questioning his source of funds to facilitate the fact finding mission across the country.  

The Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF) through its chairman Ibrahim Juma told the media in Busia yesterday that they only recognised the taskforce President Uhuru Kenyatta constituted last year to look into problems bedeviling local sugar sub-sector.

Juma claimed KNASFO’s main objective is to scuttle the activities of the team co-chaired by Kiunjuri and Oparanya. 

In Mumias, farmers who turned up for the KNASFO meeting decried the sorry state of the sugar industry.

They demanded the government seals loopholes through which cheap sugar is smuggled into the country.

KNFSF deputy secretary general Simon Wesechere said their federation is content with the national sugar task force and its ability to deliver.

He claimed that Busolo and his team were unhappy since they had not been co-opted into the sugar reforms task force.

Busolo's group started its meeting with cane farmers from Bungoma before they visited Mumias.

“We are in support of the taskforce President Kenyatta formed last year to look into challenges facing local sugar sub sector, those purporting to have formed a parallel taskforce are not sincere and have no interest of farmers at heart,” said Juma. 

He added,” The government means well for cane farmers and that is why soon the Sh2.7billion the president announced be paid to farmers will be released.” 

Busolo has maintained he will not be distracted by allegations being leveled against him.

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