Sugarcane farmers have decried lack of support from the government despite new efforts to revive the ailing sector.
The Kenya Sugarcane Plantation Workers Union (KSPWU) and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry said new private sugar companies have been licensed to operate yet no plans have been put in place to boost cane production.
“The biggest problem in the sugar industry emanated from licensing of private sugar companies without inadequate cane,” said KSPWU Secretary general Francis Wangara.
He said the remedy to the woes besetting the sector lies in helping farmers to develop cane.
“They must help in planting the cane. Cane development is the only remedy and there is no other shortcut. The millers must also come up with incentives to the farmers so that they continue planting cane,” Mr said Mr Wangara.
“Lack of this had caused farmers in Mumias area to withdraw cane farming.”
Felix Minda from the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Muhoroni Sub County said cane production was diminishing and causing sugar deficit.
The government has recently been announcing efforts to revive the ailing sector, which has been the main source of livelihood for communities in western and Nyanza region. It announced a Sh500 million debt plan for Mumias Sugar Company, the biggest miller in the region but which is on the brink of collapse under piling loans and debts.
It also announced plans to subsidise fertiliser for farmers and make payments faster once cane is harvested.
But farmers say there have been little efforts channelled at protecting cane farming zones from improper encroachment. The government, Mr Manda said, should gazette all sugar growing farms to protect them from being used for other .
“Putting up homesteads in sugarcane growing farms especially in Chemelil and Muhoroni area is now a menace. Thishas impacted negatively to the rural economy,” added Mr Minda.
Mr Wangara however, noted that the woes in the sugar industry would be a thing of the past by end year.
“We are optimistic that come September cane age and availability will improve and I think before end year the story will be different but we must urge the millers to come up with vigorous cane development programme that can deliver the anticipated threshold,” added Mr Wangara.
Mr Minda urged the government to initiate a holistic reform in the sugar industry to ensure the sub sector is competitive in the 21st century.
“Privatisation process of Muhoroni, Chemelil, Miwani and Sony has taken over eight years which is a clear evidence that the government is not serious in her promises.”
“The laws and policies being used to regulate the industry should be reviewed with a view to coming up with a new legislation that can jump start and manage the industry to its viability and progress.”
Mr Minda noted that if the government was unable to ensure privatization of the millers, then it should give priority to the original owners of the milling factories.
“The government should gazette all sugar growing farms to protect them from being used for other activities which are economically unproductive,” he said.