Nzoia Sugar shuts down factory as cane shortage bites

Trucks deliver cane to the Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG
Trucks deliver cane to the Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG 

The Nzoia Sugar Company has temporarily grounded operations at its factory due to an acute cane shortage, adding to a litany of woes that have recently faced the miller.

The company, which is based in Bungoma, has not been operational for the last two weeks after failing to get sugarcane to mill.

The firm has in the past complained about its raw materials being poached by rivals.

"The factory was affected by the continued poaching of its cane from contracted farmers by neighbouring factories and the unfavourable weather that hit the country last year leading to the weathering of cane," Nzoia Sugar communications manager Gilbert Awino said Wednesday.

He said the miller is waiting for cane from the company's own nucleus estate to mature and for contracted farmers to deliver theirs.

The plant will officially resume operations early August after the expected maturity of the cane.

Nzoia Sugar boasts the largest cane nucleus in the region, standing at about 3,000 hectares.

State bailout

The factory closure comes just days after President Uhuru Kenyatta promised Sh300 million to settle debts owed to farmers by the struggling miller.

The firm's plant is also yet to undergo its annual maintenance due to a crush crunch.

"We are soliciting funds to help us go into full maintenance...we have to ensure our machines are fully operational to avoid break downs that are very costly," he said, adding that the factory has a workforce of 1,200 permanent employees and over 100 casual labourers.

On Monday, Deputy President William Ruto - while campaigning in Ndalu, Tongaren constituency - said the government will deliver the Sh300 million promised by Mr Kenyatta on Tuesday next week.