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Two rival sugar factories under pressure to reach truce

SMART HARVEST
By Ignatius Odanga | July 20th 2017

Busia Sugar Industry and West Kenya Sugar Company are under pressure from local cane farmers to resolve their difference out of court.

The two factories are embroiled in a legal battle that has seen operations at Busia Sugar Industry stopped.

Busia Sugar's licence was revoked in March by the High Court in Bungoma following a petition filed by West Kenya.

The miller was scheduled to begin crushing cane last month but suffered a major setback when Justice Samuel Mukunya cancelled its permit on the grounds that due process was not followed during licensing.

Angry farmers led by Shaban Wandera from Matayos want the top managers of Busia Sugar and West Kenya to put prioritise their interests.

Legal battles

"When will these legal battles come to an end? Anytime the factory makes a step forward, it suffers a setback with court cases. This will create room for poaching of sugarcane," said Mr Wandera.

"The Government must come up with ways of protecting private investors."

Speaking at the weekend, a group of farmers urged Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett to intervene.

Busia Sugar sits on 100 acres and is 95 per cent complete. More than Sh4 billion has been spent on setting it up.

The factory has a capacity for crushing 3,500 tonnes of sugarcane daily.

Representing Busia Sugar, lawyer Jackah Ipapu told The Standard that the company went to the Court of Appeal in Kisumu and the ruling is slated for next month.

Mr Ipapu insists that the company has a licence issued by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) after the Kenya Sugar Board registered it as one of the sugar factories in the country in 2012.

It is against this backdrop that President Uhuru Kenyatta, while on a tour of the county recently, appealed to the two factories to withdraw the cases and embrace dialogue.

During the President's tour, members of the public pleaded with him to intervene.

Addressing the crowd in Nambale, Uhuru pledged to arbitrate with a view to getting a timely remedy to the stalemate.

"I have heard your concerns and I know the factory will provide job opportunities for many youths. I am appealing to the two factories to find a better way of solving their issues," he said.

"I am going to summon the top managers of the two factories. Their fight is not adding any value to Busia residents. Let the case in court be withdrawn for the factory to start working," he added.

Sugarcane farming

Busia Sugar has procured more than 600 acres of land for sugarcane farming besides over 10,000 acres owned by contracted farmers in Madende, Nasewa, Kisoko, Musokoto and Lunga.

Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said at Busia Polytechnic last week that the Government was committed to ensuring that Busia had at least two active factories.

He said besides the plan to revive cotton factories in the county, the Government was keen to see Busia Sugar Industry up and running.

"The Government is reviving factories to create jobs for our people," he said.

West Kenya's Public Relations Officer Joe Koech said the firm had not been approached by anybody over the matter.

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