The new variety is not only early maturing but also resistant to diseases and can withstand dry spells. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Nzoia Sugar Company is distributing early maturing cane variety to over 45,000 farmers.

Acting Managing Director Chrispine Omondi said they intend to increase productivity and make sugarcane cultivation profitable.

“The new variety is not only early maturing but also resistant to diseases and can withstand dry spells. It gives high sucrose content. The old varieties take between 18 and 24 months to mature and are prone to disease and pest infections, and have low sucrose content,” said Mr Omondi.

He said although the company has enough resources, it has been experiencing raw materials shortages in a Western home to five sugar factories.

He said the development will encourage farmers to double their efforts amid challenges bedevilling the sub-sector.

Nzoia gets 80 per cent of its raw materials from outgrower farms, with the rest coming from the factory’s 10,000 acres.

Mr Omondi said the agricultural department has dispatched extension officers to advise farmers on cane husbandry to ensure they get the best from the new cane variety.

“We are working closely working with the Sugar Research Institute based in Kisumu because we want the project to succeed,” he said.

“It is wise to empower farmers who are contributing the lion’s share of our raw material and keeping the factory afloat.”

Although the uptake is still low, the company is optimistic that more farmers will plant the new variety once they are educated on its advantages.

Mr Omondi also said the firm will roll out a payment system based on sucrose content. “We are working with the Agriculture Food Authority to make sure farmers are paid based on the sucrose content and not the weight of cane as is the case,” he said.

Nzoia Sugar is among the factories in Western where the system was piloted by the now-defunct Kenya Sugar Board about five years ago.

“We have installed a cane testing unit where the cane will be sampled before sucrose content is measured. This will be a win-win situation because both the farmer and the miller will benefit and that is why we are educating farmers on how to grow new variety seed cane so that their crop can give out more sucrose,” said Mr Omondi.