A Sh2.8 billion sugar firm coming up in Kericho County plans to start trial runs in August as it eyes to tap on the huge potential of the cash crop in the rich agricultural area.
West Valley Sugar Company Limited managing director Bernard Soi said piloting will continue for two months before the official commissioning of the project in October.
With an initial installed capacity of crushing 1,250 tonnes of canes per day (TCD), the firm plans to increase to 2,500 tonnes, and will cover Soin-Sigowet, Ainamoi, Kipkelion, Tinderet, Muhoroni and Nyando sugar belts.
The project which is 75 percent complete is a subsidiary of Kipchimchim Group of Companies, a family-owned business with over 20 multisectoral companies under its stable.
“In readiness for our operations, we have embarked on a cane development exercise in our 1,000 acres of nucleus land out of the total 1,500 acres at our disposal,” the MD told Business Daily.
On the other hand, the new entrant has entered into an agreement with more than 6,000 small-scale out-grower farmers who are provided with services like land preparation, extension services and inputs like seed canes and fertilisers, among others.
“West Valley will offer a big relief to farmers who were forced to incur more costs in transportation of the bulky product for more than 100km,” Mr Soi said.
He noted that the project based in Kapkormom in the Soin-Sigowet constituency will offer over 1,000 direct employment opportunities and 6,000 other indirect jobs to both locals and non-locals.
“Other than 60 expatriates who are currently on site, we have more than 200 locals working day and night to complete the project ahead of schedule,” Mr Soi said.
He noted that Kericho County currently produces up to 3,600 TCD which are transported to the neighbouring millers.
"This could however double once farmers are sure there is a mill close to them," Mr Soi observed.
West Valley will use excess bagasse in the manufacture of chipboards and briquettes for use in firing boilers in the neighbouring tea factories.
Charles Sigei, a farmer from Kericho, said the development has already inspired the confidence of farmers who had abandoned sugarcane for other alternatives.
“The farmers in this region will now earn more due to reduced cost in transporting the canes to far-off mills," said the elated farmer.
Kenya National Sugarcane Growers Association (KESGA) Secretary General Richard Ogendo on his side noted that the move will in no way inconvenience Muhoroni Sugar which was built to support out-grower farmers in seven schemes within and around the factory.
"The cane around West Valley Sugar Company is an area referred to as sugar belt cooperative union and the inhabitants of this area have progressively increased area under cane up to Kapsoit centre," he said.