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Farmers back CS Peter Munya on sugar millers’ boards, sector revival

By Kepher Otieno | August 14th 2020

Sugarcane farmers have backed Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya in his efforts to revive an ailing sector.

In particular, they say the scrapping of the boards of three State millers is a good move that will improve the livelihoods of thousands who depend on the sugar sector.

Mr Munya last week dissolved the boards of Chemelil, Nzoia and Sony Sugar companies and gazetted a new team to jointly manage the millers, even as the government prepares to lease out the firms.

Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers officials led by Secretary General Ezra Okoth commended the government, saying the move by Munya was bold and focused to rescue the age-old sugar factories on the brink of collapse.

“The sugar industry has been at crossroads and the sustained actions by the CS to bail out and revive the mills is good news to farmers who, for years, have suffered economic strangulation,” said Mr Okoth 

He asked farmers to support the CS, who was acting on the directives of President Uhuru Kenyatta to bring the millers back on their feet.

The President has pledged to fast-track reforms recommended by a task force that he appointed last year.

“The president had assured farmers of acting on their recommendations to salvage the sub-sector from collapse after he received the report findings a month ago. It is happening and we are happy,” said Okoth.

Debt waiver

Since he received the Sugar Task Force Report, Munya has effected a number of proposals, including a waiver of the Sh62 billion debt that was choking the sector.

This was done ostensibly to clean the balance sheets in order to attract fresh investors for the five State millers that have made losses for many years.

Other sugar millers owned by the government are Muhoroni and Miwani.

Munya’s gazette notice established a leasing committee of nine people that will be chaired by Ann Nyagah, with the head of Sugar Directorate Rose Owino as the secretary.

Other members of the committee are the managing directors of the State-owned millers.

“The committees shall serve up to the time when the last sugar mill will be handed over to the identified leaser,” Munya said in the notice.

With the directors kicked out, the managers of the sugar companies now have to find ways of keeping the firms running without oversight of the boards.

Thursday, Muhoroni Company Receiver Manager Francis Ooko told The Standard they now double up as chief executives and board members.

“We have now taken over the role played by the board of directors, whose services have been terminated, as the State moves fast to fast-track the process of leasing the mills,” he said.  

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