EDITORIAL: Find a lasting solution to sugar industry woes

A shopper buys sugar at a supermarket. PHOTO | FILE.
A shopper buys sugar at a supermarket. PHOTO | FILE. 

The time has come for the government to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the country’s ailing sugar sector.

Farmers have been complaining about not being paid for their sugarcane produce while the firms have cited cane poaching and moribund equipment for their woes. The government has so far spent billions of shillings bailing out these State companies, but their woes continue piling up.

The latest to join the fray after Mumias Sugar Company and Nzoia Sugar Company is Chemelil Sugar Company,  which is now seeking an extra Sh500 million for factory maintenance to boost its milling capacity.

The national government last week gave the company Sh300 million to pay farmers’ arrears accrued between 2014 and June this year.

One question that sugar farmers have been asking is why private millers are able to pay them promptly for their deliveries yet the State firms are still owing them for produce delivered to the mills years ago.

The sector is in dire need of long-lasting solutions that will inject a fresh lease of life into the industry.

It is time the government cracked the whip and sold off entities that are not making it money, but are instead gobbling up millions in taxpayers’ funds.

Another reason the sector’s woes have been never-ending is politics. Once you allow farmers’ interests to be used as a pawn for political expediency the end result are the problems we are witnessing in the sector.

The farmers need to be assured that they will reap good earnings from their produce. The current state where our sugar farmers have been caught up in the grip of poverty is unacceptable.

The government needs to ensure that the farmers are paid promptly, the parastatals have proper equipment and conducive marketing channels that can help sustain the industry.

The taxpayers can no longer continue funding these bailout schemes yet they see no positive outcomes from them.