Cane farmers want state to offset Sh1.7 billion arrears

Cutters harvest sugarcane at Vuyika in Malava, Kakamega County, on July 12, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Sugarcane farmers want the government to honour the promise to offset Sh1.7 billion arrears.

Kenya Sugarcane Federation officials led by Killion Osur said President William Ruto pledged to clear the arrears before the new year.

“We were told farmers will have all their outstanding arrears cleared before Christmas and New Year. The new year is here yet the arrears have not been settled," he said.

Osur said farmers want to use the money to pay school fees.

"We are urging the government to make good its promises by releasing the money to us as soon as they can," he said.

The farmers, however, welcomed the proposed reforms in the sugar sector.

“We have a good government that for the first time is keen on seeing farmers make significant investments in the industry and get good returns. But they should move with speed to ease our frustrations," stated Osur.

Last year, the state came up with a plan to clear millers debts after Cabinet approval.

The Cabinet also welcomed a resolution of the National Assembly to write off loans owed and tax arrears by public sugar mills amounting to Sh117 billion.

While on a tour of Migori county last year, President Ruto ruled out the privatization of sugar factories.

He explained that it is not a viable option as it would result in private firms assuming ownership of farms, opting for their divestiture through the commercialisation of the firms.

President Ruto said the government would lease the five struggling state-owned sugar factories in a bid to revive the sector.

The factories are Nzoia, South Nyanza (Sony), Chemelil, Mumias, Muhoroni and Miwani Sugar companies.

President Ruto assured the sector players that the state would ensure prudent management of the factories to safeguard the interests of farmers.

“We will agree with them to install new machines and pay farmers on time,” he said.

Already, the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) has kick-started the process in readiness to invite bids this month.

AFA Director Jude Chesire said they will soon advertise bids in the dailies.

This is after Parliament also vacated the plan to auction the firms as was suggested in the Sugar Task Force Report. The leasing timelines were also spelt out in the report.

“We are working round the clock to come up with a transitional management ahead of the lease for between 20 to 25 years,’’ Chesire said.

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