Leaders on the spot for opposing sugar rules
Sugarcane farmers from Western region have taken issue with senators and governors for rejecting the newly gazetted Crops (Sugar) (General) Regulations, 2020.
The farmers, drawn from Bungoma, Kakamega and Busia counties asked senators and governors to rescind their decision and vowed to stage demonstrations to express their displeasure.
According to the farmers, the gazetted regulations were aimed at benefiting them and the sugar millers, not the politicians. Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries together with the Council of Governors, in their joint communique dated October 23, 2020, rejected the gazettement of sugar and tea regulations.
They argued that the regulations were not in compliance with the Constitution.
The senators and governors also stated that they will jointly fight cartels in the agriculture sector.
“That the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries together with the Council of Governors jointly reject in total the gazettement of sugar and tea regulations for lack of compliance with the Constitution,” read the communique by senators and governors.
Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is chaired by Embu Senator Njeru Ndwiga while Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki is the chair of CoG’s Agriculture Committee.
In the gazetted regulations, farmers are to be represented in the Sugarcane Pricing Committee that determines the price per tonne, unlike before when the miller decided the amount to pay the farmer per tonne for cane delivered.
The regulations allow farmers to freely sign contracts with millers of their choice and both have obligations to adhere to the deal, something farmers say is a big relief to them.
The miller, as per the regulations, is to pay the farmer between seven and 14 days after delivering cane to the contracted sugar factory.
It is against this backdrop that farmers from can-growing areas are unhappy with senators and governors.
They wondered why governors have taken rejected the regulations yet Wycliffe Oparanya, the Council of Governors chair, co-chaired the presidential task-force that conducted public hearings aimed at reviving the sugar sub-sector.
The report was then handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and later gazetted by Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya in June.
Jeremiah Sunguti from Shiamberere in Kakamega claimed the rejection of the regulations are a scheme to re-introduce zoning which was rejected.
“The policy of willing buyer and willing seller must prevail. We are very bitter with senators and governors whom we think are so insensitive to the plight of farmers,” Sunguti said.
He continued: “Farmers are the main stakeholders in the sugar sector and none of us was consulted by senators and governors before they rejected the regulations. No cane farmer has complained that the regulations do not favour us.”
Tawai Mamuti from Kimangiti in Kakamega hailed the new regulations, noting that he was paid two weeks after delivering cane to factories.
Separately, sugarcane farmers from Bungoma said that it was unfair for the senators and governors to reject the regulations, barely five months after the gazettement.
“The hurry to reject the regulations after we gave our views has raised suspicion among the sugarcane farmers. We hope the government will stand with farmers and ensure that the regulations are implemented to the letter,” said Gregory Nabukwesi.
“It is law after the presidential assent and therefore it must be implemented in totality without unnecessary drama and sideshows from politicians who seem to be after their own interests,” Nabukwesi said.
Bidal Ojago said sugar sub-sector was at risk of being plunged into a crisis it was in before the regulations were put in place.
“I have no doubt that the government, sugar millers and sugarcane farmers are committed to bringing sanity to the sugar sector but some cartels are not happy that is why the regulations are being opposed by our politicians,” Ojago said.
John Manyuru from Amukura in Teso South, Busia County, claimed some governors and senators were scheming to have shares in the State factories to be privatised.
Manyuru lauded the CS for Agriculture for coming to the rescue of sugarcane farmers by imposing a ban on the importation of raw materials from Uganda.
He warned that should the State give in to the demand of senators and governors, it is the farmers who will suffer.
“We had started farming sugarcane because of the favourable regulations that are in place but we may now shift to growing food crop,” Manyuru said.
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