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Cane farmers claim sugar miller defying Munya directive on price

Sugarcane farmers in Muhoroni transporting cane to the milling plant after harvest. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers in Busia County have called on the Agriculture ministry to ensure they are paid Sh4,040 per tonne of cane delivered to milling factories as directed by Cabinet Secretary CS Peter Munya.

The farmers claim a private miller, Busia Sugar, is paying them less money through brokers from Kakamega, Vihiga, Eldoret, Bungoma and as far as Uganda.

Busia Sugar is said to have forced the brokers to write a commitment letter to supply cane at Sh3,500 per tonne.

The letter, seen by The Standard, asks the brokers to sign the agreement so as to continue supplying cane. Busia Sugar, however, says the agreement is on a willing buyer-willing seller basis and not coercion as claimed by the farmers.

An organisation that represents the farmers, Western Development Initiative Association (Wedia), has now given the sugar company a two-week ultimatum to address the issue or they will immobilise its operations.

Through a letter to the miller, Wedia vice chair Joseph Barasa said farmers have not harvested their cane that was ready two months ago since the company is dealing with brokers and neglecting them.

He alleges that an agreement that the company would cut and transport the cane from farmers to the factory has been stopped as brokers have taken over the work.

Speaking separately to The Standard, Barasa said farmers are counting losses amounting to millions of shillings as they have nowhere to take their cane as brokers have taken advantage of the situation.

“We have had this issue in the past but recently, many companies in Busia have desisted from dealing with brokers. Busia Sugar is still buying directly from brokers,’’ he said.

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“The only person that can salvage the situation is CS Munya since his directive is being taken for granted by some companies that are there to make profit while farmers continue suffering.”

But responding to the allegations, Busia Sugar Communication Director Stephen Mula said the company has started implementing Munya’s directive to buy cane at Sh4,040 per tonne.

He said the deal with brokers was voluntary and those who did not like it had been allowed to stop selling to the company.

Mr Mula added that they had not contracted brokers to transport cane as alleged but were using the company’s workers. 

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