Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega county. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers affiliated with Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega county will receive millions of shillings withheld by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) over dormant accounts.

In a letter dated January 23 from the industry regulator addressed to the current management of the miller, the authority has committed to releasing Sh17.2 million owed to more than 500 farmers.

"The government availed funds to the authority for the settlement of long-standing arrears to farmers who supplied cane to Mumias Sugar Company Limited.

"Whereas most farmers were paid, some funds bounced back on account of closed, dormant or wrongly captured account details," read the letter in part.

It adds: "The purpose of this letter is to request you to assist in identifying the farmers on the attached list, with a view to obtaining their correct account details to facilitate settlement."

The letter was signed by Wills Audi, the Sugar directorate acting director, and Mumias Sugar company (2021) Limited under Uganda-based investor Sarrai Group which had earlier confirmed receipt of the letter.

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According to Boniface Manda, a grower from Mumias West constituency, the development is welcome news for farmers who have been waiting for the money for nearly four years.

"We are happy that finally, the money has come, this will encourage the farmers to revert to sugarcane farming. The affected farmers must be able to submit their correct details at their nearest chief offices for verification to make things easier," said Manda.

Simon Wesechere, deputy secretary general of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, challenged AFA to redirect its attention to sugarcane development as soon as it paid the arrears.

"The targeted farmers have been patiently waiting for the arrears to be cleared since 2019 when the national government gave Mumias Sugar Company Sh1.5 billion for settling arrears owed to farmers and factory maintenance, the cane farmers were allocated Sh800 million, and the remaining amount was to be utilised on factory maintenance," said Wesechere.

"AFA has not been doing well in the area of cane development, and this has caused acute shortage of raw material and unwarranted scramble for the scarcely available raw materials among Sugar Mills in Western Kenya.

Western region has five sugar factories namely, Mumias, West Kenya and Butali sugar companies all based in Kakamega and others in Bungoma and Busia. Wesechere said funds must be sourced from the commodity fund kitty at AFA for cane development.