Manufacturing

Raila tours Mumias Sugar, promises to revive ailing industries

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Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga and Sarrai Group chairman Sarbjit Singh Rai. PHOTO | POOL

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Tuesday toured Mumias Sugar Company and vowed to revive ailing industries should their coalition win next week's polls. 

Mr Odinga said the challenges currently facing the miller would be addressed to ensure farmers from the region benefit from the cash crop. 

The management of Uganda’s Sarrai Group resumed operations at the debt-ridden sugar miller last month after month-long maintenance works on the equipment.

"My impromptu visit to Mumias Sugar today confirms that industries will be revived and Mumias is first in line. This is the real change we talk about," Mr Odinga said. 

"As we prepare to go to the polls on Tuesday next week and hope Kenyans will give us the mandate to lead the country, I'm determined to ensure the revival process continues successfully to benefit our farmers in the western region."

During the tour, Sarrai Group chairman  Sarbjit Singh Rai said they have already acquired 100 new tractors at a cost of Sh360 million and  Sh150 million trailers which will be used for ploughing and hauling cane from the fields.

The Uganda-based firm is also currently buying cane seeds for farmers while it enlists back growers the miller lost from Busia, Bungoma and Kakamega counties. 

The company is currently buying cane for Sh4,565 per tonne for the trial runs and crushing 1,000 tonnes per day as technical teams monitor operations.

This comes even as last week the High Court gave fresh orders stopping operations at the plant in a directive that appeared to be in conflict with a superior Court of Appeal decision made in May.

Justice Wilfrida Okwany directed Sarrai Group of Uganda to cease all activities at the Kakamega-based factory, saying the lease remains cancelled.

The judge rejected attempts by Sarrai to suspend her ruling, pending appeal.

The ruling added to the intrigues facing the once giant miller as it has been dogged by controversy since last December when Sarrai won the tender to lease the company for 20 years.

The company won the tender on December 23 and immediately started tilling land, paving roads, carrying out repairs and maintenance of the distillery and the factory in its revival plans.

Soon after the announcement, companies that lost the tender process filed a litany of cases in the High Court in Nairobi and Kakamega, as well as Public Procurement Administrative Review Board, challenging the lease and the whole process undertaken by the receiver manager PVR Rao.

Justice Mabeya canceled the 20-year-lease in April but the Uganda-based company went back to court and obtained temporary orders, suspending the decision.

KCB Group also obtained a temporary order at the Court of Appeal suspending Justice Mabeya’s judgment and a ruling will be made in September.

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