Editorials

Stop the cartels derailing Mumias Sugar reforms

mumias

Mumias sugar company. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The long-drawn attempt to revive the once giant Mumias Sugar Company has affirmed the deep-running selfish interests in the country’s multi-billion shilling cane farming and sugar production business.
  • Except for a handful of vibrant privately run factories, all other millers, including State-owned such as Chemelil, Nzoia and Sony, are on their deathbeds despite a huge potential given the economy’s perennial reliance on imports.

The long-drawn attempt to revive the once giant Mumias Sugar Company has affirmed the deep-running selfish interests in the country’s multi-billion shilling cane farming and sugar production business.

Except for a handful of vibrant privately run factories, all other millers, including State-owned such as Chemelil, Nzoia and Sony, are on their deathbeds despite a huge potential given the economy’s perennial reliance on imports to cover for a deficit in production.

What ails the sugar industry is known — from mismanagement to debt and aging machinery. Unfortunately, attempts to address these challenges haven’t borne fruit over the decades due to interference by some shadowy figures who have immensely benefited from the lucrative sugar import business.

To the cartels, a functional local sugar industry would spell doom to their enterprise. They have therefore gone out of their way to frustrate reforms in the sugar industry through court fights or ridiculous political sideshows.

For example, for about a decade now there have been unfruitful attempts to inject private capital and expertise in the State-owned millers. We witnessed similar frustration recently when Mumias invited prospective lease partnerships in a bid to revive its operations.

Even with the benefits of reforms, cartels won’t allow anything that threatens profiteering through the sugar import window.

Some politicians have also made the reforms a campaign tool — always giving empty promises during electioneering to secure votes.

This shouldn't be tolerated any more. The sugar industry is dying for reforms to restore its old glory in terms of wealth creation and provision of jobs.

It is uplifting that Mumias receiver-manager PVR Rao is taking another go at reviving the miller and on Monday invited bidders to invest in any of its nucleus estate, sugar factory, ethanol plant, mineral water plant, a golf course, clubhouse and residential estate, among other movable properties.

The search for new investors to revive Mumias should be allowed to proceed smoothly to get the ailing giant back on its feet. This would open the way to revamp the State-owned millers as well safeguard the livelihoods.