Sh10m cane to rot away as miller shut

Soin Sugarcane Farmers’ Association chairman Jonathan Langat speaks to the press at Kipsitet weighbridge. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers in Kericho County risk losing produce worth Sh10 million after National Environment Management Authority (Nema) shut down Kibos Sugar Factory over pollution.

A spot check by The Standard at Kipsitet weighbridge found tens of tractors loaded with huge heaps of freshly harvested sugarcane grounded.

Soin Sugarcane Farmers Association chairman Jonathan Langat said they were stuck with over 4,000 tonnes of sugarcane since closure of the factory in the neighbouring Kisumu County, where they take the produce.

"The government should listen to our pleas and immediately reverse the decision lest we as farmers lose millions of shillings now that our produce is rotting away at the weighbridge," he said.

Mr Langat, who has exclusively been relying on sugarcane farming since 1972, argued that the closure of the factory goes against Jubilee government’s industrialisation agenda.

The farmer claimed the decision to close down the factory was part of a scheme to fling open the gates for sugar importation.

“As a matter of fact, we ask President Uhuru Kenyatta to reintroduce the scraped Sugar Board of Kenya as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority is of no help to us. We also want the scrapping of sugarcane zoning since we are in a liberalised economy," he said.

Dickson Siele, another farmer, wondered why Nema singled out Kibos whereas there were companies in Kisumu and Kericho that also flout Nema's rules and regulations.

"If Nema is genuine, it must take similar actions against all the companies which allegedly pollute the environment in the two counties," Mr Siele said.

Cyrus Karan, a tractor driver, lamented that the closure of the factory will ultimately cut down his wages. David Kiplangat, a mobile money operator at Kipsitet trading centre said the sugar factory's closure had affected business transactions.

Nema's Director General Mamo Boru Mamo, however, said the decision, which had a 30-day ultimatum, was taken after the company defied air quality regulations of 2014, among other orders.

"Kibos' emission was more than five times the internationally accepted standard of 50 micrometers. They are doing 245 micrometers," said Mamo, adding the order will be lifted when Kibos installs an effective air pollution control system at its boilers. 

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