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Cane farmers to enjoy sweet returns as millers raise prices

 Sugarcane trucks loaded with sugarcane from Nyando sugar belt camping outside the West Kenya's Miwani weighbridge in Kisumu county on September 3rd 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers in Western Kenya are a happy lot after prices hit a record Sh5,500 per ton.

West Kenya Sugar, the manufacturer of Kabras sugar brand has raised the price of cane from Sh5,250 to a record Sh5,500 per ton as sugar manufacturers in the region compete to lure the cane growers following a declining supply of raw materials.

The price review came just days after their competitors Mumias Sugar Company and Butali announced fresh offers of Sh5,250 and Sh5,200 respectively to tier farmers for a ton of sugarcane. Initially, the three major players in the sector were paying an average of Sh4,500 per ton in the past couple of months until the commodity became scarce.

“All we want is to offer our key suppliers-the farmers-the best price so that they. We have equally been offering them subsidised farm inputs and transportation of the cane from their farms to the miller,” said West Kenya External communications manager George Muruli.

The Sh5,500 per tonne makes Kenya the first country under the East African Community (EAC) to pay farmers the highest.

In neighbouring Uganda, the price of sugarcane has been on a steady decline in the past few years.

From a high of Sh4,000 in 2018, the crop’s value has plunged to sell to millers at below Sh2,000. This has been the situation since the year 2020.

Mumias and Butali were the first to raise their prices but considering Kabras’s depth, it would be interesting to see whether they can keep up.

Since the near collapse of Mumias sugar, West Kenya has been the dominant sugar milling company in Kenya with a crushing capacity of 8,200 tonnes per day (TCD) even as it has shipped in new crushing machines to widen the capacity.

Payment uncertainties in Mumias Company from their troubled past with former contracted farmers instigated a perception that may hurt it in the wake of the competition.

At a time when the economy is at bad, these companies seem to have provided sugarcane farmers with a solid cushion, fluffy on its insides, comfortable yet lasting. “We don’t know for sure but this price is still not the deadlock it’s still expected to rise. We are happy that the sustainability of sugarcane farming is being tackled by the competition,” said Juma Wakhayange, a farmer.

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