Western leaders oppose Ruto's plan to sell Nzoia, Mumias sugar factories

Others against the move are Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli and MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), John Makali (Kanduyi), John Waluke (Sirisia), Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga, and Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga.

The leaders challenged the President to fulfill his promise of procuring a new milling machane for Nzoia Sugar factory and getting a new investor for Mumias Sugar Company.

They also want the government to clear the debts the factory owes farmers and suppliers.

Dr Khalwale said privatisation of the two sugar millers will render locals jobless as the new investors will recruit other people.

"This is not out of disrespect for the president and the government. That is the little we have in the economy of the sugar industry," said the Kakamega senator.

"Our forefathers donated 12,500 acres for Mumias Sugar and 24,500 to Nzoia Sugar Company. If you privatise, someone will go away with our ancestral land," he added.

But the government has insisted that privatisation will ensure sugar millers stay afloat.

The leaders have maintained that the government should solve the crisis in the companies but not sell them to strangers.

"We are asking President Ruto to fulfill his campaign promises of installing a new milling machine at the factory and address the issue of debts, that is the only solution to resolving the problems facing Nzoia and Mumias sugar, not selling it off," said Dr Lusaka.

"What we want is meaningful development and not empty rhetoric. Let the government be serious about them and revive the ailing sugar industry by doing the right thing. Privatising the sugar factory could kill the industry," he added.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi declared that they will not allow the government to sell the millers through the back door.

"You have heard that they want to sell Nzoia and Mumias but they don't want to involve the National Assembly. We are opposed to anything of that sort as the huge chunks of land where the two factories are domiciled, do not belong to the government, it's our land," said Mr Osotsi.

"We saw what happened at Pan Paper mills, they told us they were buying the factory, but in real sense, it's the land and the property they wanted. Selling of the two companies will not happen under our watch," he added.

Kanduyi MP John Makali said Nzoia Sugar factory is the main source of livelihood for sugarcane farmers in the region "and selling it would amount to killing the economy of this region."

"Nzoia is the main economic stay in the region and in particular in Bungoma county, therefore, we will not allow it to go into the hands of a foreign investor," said Mr Makali.

"We will not allow Nzoia sugar to go the Mumias sugar company way," he added.

The MP regretted that the milling machine installed in 1978 was obsolete and inefficient. "The mill has been experiencing frequent breakdowns," he said.

Makali noted that majority of the senior managers at Nzoia Sugar factory are serving in an acting capacity and the government should consider employing them on permanent and pensionable basis.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said that Ruto's maiden budget should ensure that farmers who delivered sugarcane to the factory since 2014 are paid their dues in full.

"All farmers who supplied and are still supplying sugar cane to Nzoia should be paid to ensure that the company is up and running," Barasa noted.

Mumias Sugar Company was the largest sugar factory in East and Central Africa and controlled up to 50 per cent of the market.

The miller would crush 7,000 tons of cane per day and never ran out of cane since it had 4,494.8 hectares of nucleus under sugarcane, as well as additional cane from contracted farmers.

Annually, the miller produced about 250,000 metric tonnes of sugar. Mumias Sugar has an asset base of Sh15.7 billion and liabilities valued at Sh30.1billion.

According to Nzioa Sugar factory board chairman Alfred Khang'ati the miller owes cane farmers Sh300 million.