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We must sort out sugar sector issues, says Raila Odinga

NEWS
By Rawlings Otieno | March 5th 2019
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri addresses the Press in Nairobi yesterday. Also present were, from left, Suna East MP Mohamed Junet, Privatisation Commission chair Paul Otuoma and Opposition leader Raila Odinga. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Corruption and misappropriation of funds have deflated the once vibrant sugar sector, Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said.

Raila said the mismanagement of sugar mills had forced the molasses plant in Kisumu to close shop due to lack of raw materials.

He was speaking yesterday during a meeting with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Privatisation Commission chair Paul Otuoma and MPs from the sugar belt region.

“We have agreed to convene a meeting next week Monday in Kisumu for the sugar sector to come up with a solution. There has been corruption and mismanagement of the mills so that they are no longer profitable,” said Raila.

The meeting came even as the Government started paying farmers Sh2.7 billion, which was released by the National Treasury to settle outstanding debts.

Disillusioned farmers have attributed the industry's dwindling fortunes in Nyanza and Western regions to obsolete machines, large debts, cane poaching, unscrupulous transporters and moribund regulations.

And now the Government is seeking solutions to the perennial problems facing the State-run sugar mills that include Mumias, Nzoia, Muhoroni, Chemelil, Miwani and Sony in South Nyanza.

During last year's Mashujaa Day celebrations, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the Agriculture ministry to first carry out an audit to ensure only deserving farmers were paid.

He also instructed that a task force to be led by Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya be established. The team was given one month to come up with recommendations on how to restructure the ailing sugar industry.

But yesterday, Kiunjuri said the task force had halted its sittings to pave way for the payment of farmers before they could resume their work and present a report.

Last week, farmers demanded that the list of those who will be paid be made public.

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