Governor Barasa calls for more funds to revive the sugar sector, welcomes Sh1.9b to sector

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa. [File, Standard]

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa has welcomed the allocation of Sh1.7 billion by the national government towards the sugar sub-sector stating it a commitment by the state to revive the ailing sub-sector.

Speaking during the Western Region Branch Agricultural Show of Kenya at Showground in Kakamega town, Governor Barasa said the allocation is a reprieve to farmers but more funds are required in the sub-sector.

“I want to welcome the Sh1.7 billion and I know the budget process is just the beginning and once the money is dispensed and in case there is a shortfall, I think there will be an opportunity to enhance the supplementary budget. It is a good show that the government is committed to reviving the sugar sector and sugar production,” said Barasa.

Barasa said leaders from the Western region have talked with President William Ruto to revive the sector and the head of state promised to actualize the reforms in the sub-sector.

“The conversation was on reviving Mumias sugar company and he committed that the national government was going to invest in sugar production and ensure that once farmers are promptly paid once they deliver sugarcane to millers. Our farmers are also going to benefit from bonuses annually,” said Barasa.

Additionally, Governor Barasa who is also a Chairperson of the Finance, Economy, and Planning committee at the Council of Governors, said at the moment governors have welcomed the Sh400billion from the national government as an equitable share which they hope will increase based on the projection of revenue collection.

“Our expectations have not yet been met because we expected Sh450billion, earlier the national treasury had allocated Sh391biullion which we rejected, Sh400 billion was a product of mediation and because we appreciate the economic times as a CoG we are okay for now on Sh400billion,” said Barasa.

“One of the agreements we had with the national treasury is in the event the revenue projection and assumption are realized and we collect more than we are likely to have a revision upwards in the supplementary budget and as for now as a council, we accepted Sh400billion as patriotists.”

The 1.7 billion allocation is contained in the Budget Policy Statement presented by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndungu Thursday stating that the money will cater for the maintenance of Cane Testing Units (CTUs) and payment of workers' salary arrears.

Governor Barasa’s sentiments were echoed by sugarcane farmers who welcomed the allocation but demanding for more money stating that the total workers' areas stand at Sh5.7 billion.

“We appreciate the recognition of the Sugar industry by the CS in his Budget Policy Statement by an allocation of Sh1.5 billion specifically for CTUs maintenance and payment of salary arrears for workers,” said Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Secretary General Simon Wesechere.

Kabras Sugar Company which showcased their product at the Western region branch Agricultural show said they have engaged cane farmers on the E-TIMS with the help of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to offer civic education on sugar reforms and cane development programme.

“We are educating our farmers on E-Tims a directive issued by farmers and there was a bit of resistance from farmers because there were misconceptions that it is an extra levy but we have engaged farmers in collaboration with KRA and we have been able to educate our farmers,” said Edwin Achayo, Public Relation Officer at Kabras Sugar Company.

Early this year during the 61st Madaraka Day celebrations held at Masinde Muliro Kanduyi stadium in Bungoma county President Ruto announced debt relief amounting to Sh110 billion for sugar factories and a commitment of Sh2 billion towards sugarcane development.

“As part of my commitment to invest the Sh2 billion in sugarcane development through State-owned mills, after leasing is completed, I am proud to announce that the government has approved the first tranche of Sh600 million for seed cane development, and the National Treasury shall shortly release these funds,” he said.

“The sugar industry is a highly strategic sub-sector, whose value chains have been the mainstay of the local economies of our sugar belt, and a generator of much-needed jobs. For this reason, we are firmly committed to ensuring that the sugar industry returns maximum value to all actors in its value chains, beginning with the initial and foundational entrepreneur,” said the President.