× Business BUSINESS MOTORING SHIPPING & LOGISTICS DR PESA FINANCIAL STANDARD Digital News Videos Health & Science Lifestyle Opinion Education Columnists Moi Cabinets Arts & Culture Fact Check Podcasts E-Paper Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman Travelog TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise VAS E-Learning Digger Classified Jobs Games Crosswords Sudoku The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS

Smallscale farmers bear the burden of delayed revival of millers

By Dr Otieno Panya | Mar 13th 2022 | 2 min read
By Dr Otieno Panya | March 13th 2022

A section of Mumias Sugar Company's land owners led by Simon Wesechere (in a suit), the Vice Secretary of Kenya Federation of Sugarcane Farmers address the media in Makunga, Mumias East in Kakamega County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Sugarcane farming is the main economic activity of western Kenya and parts of the Coast. About six million Kenyans directly or indirectly rely on the sugar industry for their livelihood.

The Big Four Agenda places sugarcane as one of the agro-processing target crops to help move manufacturing from eight per cent to 16 per cent - contributing to 20 per cent increased GDP.

According to the World Bank, about 80 per cent of sugar production in Kenya is from smallholder farms with production heavily reliant on rain-fed systems. The Western Kenya circuit supports about 400,000 smallholder farming households.

In some areas, sugarcane covers three times more land than other crops. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the needs for food and raw materials will drive the demand for agricultural commodities like sugar over the next ten years. For almost three decades, sugarcane farming has become a burden to the farmer. After 24 months of waiting for the cane to mature, the farmer chases payment for months.

Over the past decades, tales from cane growing zones has not been rosy with families agonising over inability to take their children to school, high school drop out rates, early marriages, high crime rates, suicide cases among other worrying trends. Sugarcane farming is today characterised by delayed payments, high harvesting charges and transport costs, inflated cost of farm inputs and low cane price.

Others are delayed or non-harvest of sugarcane, survey charges, furrowing costs, cost of fertiliser, seed-cane charges and labour cost which comprise 67 per cent of the overall cost of production.

Our cost of producing a tonne of sugar is on average $800 (Sh85,000) compared to Madagascar’s $543.92 (Sh60,000), Malawi $540.93 (Sh61,560) and Uganda $670.01 (Sh76,380).

The presidential task force in 2018 recommended implementation of an efficient and cost-reduction strategy along the sugar value chain, and prompt payments to farmers.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) says the fight against illicit sugar importation, stable policy environment, affordable energy, prompt payment of farmers will help revive the sugar industry. The State must also implement the sugar taskforce recommendations

The writer is a Lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University

Share this story
How the trade in masks, sanitisers rose and fell in the blink of an eye
Sales soared in the days following the first Covid case as government set out strict containment measures.
Games and entertainment boost morale and productivity at work
Introducing more fun activities and gaming facilities help employees talk and bond. Happier employees are more productive by 12 percent