State to close millers that are not self-sustaining

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. [Denish Ochieng/Standard]

Agriculture minister says sugar firms that will not be financially independent in six months will be shut.

State-owned sugar millers that will not be financially stable in the next six months will be closed, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has said.

Speaking when he toured Nzoia Sugar Company on Tuesday, Mr Kiunjuri said many top managers of the sugar millers were underperforming.

He said the collapse of the millers was due to mismanagement and challenged those who would try to run them once they were shut to do so at their own peril.

“In six months, any sugar miller that will not be financially independent will be shut. If the leadership is failing we will have to disband the board of management,” he stated.

Mr Kiunjuri announced that auditors from his ministry had been dispatched to examine the accounts of Nzoia and other State millers.

Expressing concern at the many pending payments, he said the Government would not pay any worker, supplier or farmer who is not clearly identified once money was released to the factories.

Kiunjuri stated that officials were working to ensure the Government paid only genuine farmers from the money that would be released and that any farmer who owed any miller money would be asked to settle the debt.

“We are working round the clock to ensure that we have a clean register of those to be paid. Farmers should expect their money by Christmas and if anyone owes the miller be assured that I will deduct the money,” stated Kiunjuri.

Be included

He said governors Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Stephen Sang (Nandi) would be included in the sugarcane task force chaired by their Kakamega collleague, Wycliffe Oparanya. Okoth Obado (Migori) and Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu) would also be members.

The CS was accompanied by his Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Andrew Tuimur, Bungoma Governor Wangamati, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe.

Wangamati said Nzoia Sugar Company had a high impact in terms of the economic growth of Bungoma County and called for a long-term solution to the challenges facing the sugar sector.

He stated that the importation of cheap sugar was part of the problem affecting local millers and called for the speedy publishing of new regulations for the sugar sector.

“More than half-a-million people depend on Nzoia Sugar in Bungoma County and beyond. What is ailing this firm is the importation of sugar by some selfish barons who are killing our economy,” said Wangamati.

Senator Malala asked the auditors to engage farmers to ensure that only genuine ones received payments from the Government.