Brazil has approved a Sh7 billion loan to Kenya in the form of a range of agricultural machinery, among them 2,000 tractors for sugarcane farmers.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Secretary Felix Kosgey told farmers during a visit in the Nyando Sugar Belt the Brazillian government will give priority to delivery of the 2,000 tractors that will be sold at prices close to the cost of manufacturing.
“You will receive 2,000 tractors that will be sold at a subsidised price since Brazil allows us to import without tax,” Mr Koskei said during the visit.
Thousands of farmers in Nyando have suffered losses as lack of reliable means of transportation saw their mature crop go to waste.
Hesbond Waswa, while speaking on behalf of Awasi farmers, appealed to the government to distribute the tractors without delay.
“We have a great problem transporting our cane to the factory. The tractors which used to serve the region are too old for service yet the Indian contractor who took up the service has withdrawn,” he said.
Also eager are residents who farm deep into Nandi County farms, supplying cane to Chemelil, the sole factory running in the region as Muhoroni and Miwani are closed.
Nandi Sugar Belt Cooperative union chairperson Stephen Yego said pressure was mounting on the disillusioned members to find alternative crops to sugarcane due to transportation troubles.
“Most farmers who helped us transport sugarcane bought their tractors way back in the sixties and seventies. They are no longer strong enough to manage the sugarcane bulk in the region considering some of them travel for over 30km to the factory,” he said.
He thanked the government for the intervention, saying they had suffered in the hands of businessmen who hire tractors at exorbitant rates.
Compared to Sh805 that contractors used to charge to transport each metric tonne of sugarcane, the cost of hiring a tractor is Sh3,000 per trip. Farmers in the region have resorted to planting tea, coffee and other crops to cut losses.
Mr Koskei said the tractor project was one of the major plans to turnaround the sugar sector to allow maximum economic productivity.
He said Kenya will work closely with Brazil to borrow tips for high sugar productivity. “Brazil is among the world leaders in the production of sugarcane, sugar, and ethanol. In addition, it is among the most efficient of all major sugar producers,” he said.
Brazil also exports sugar products.
The Agriculture Secretary was on a tour of the Miwani Sugar Company which the government hopes to revive once an impending court case of the land where the factory stands is cleared.
Miwani, which collapsed in 2003 is said to have sent home over 8,000 workers while indebted Sh23 million of farmers’ supplies.