Farmers worry over school fees as Mumias Sugar delays payments

Sugarcane farmers contracted to Mumias Sugar Company fear they may not be able to take their children to school this term for lack fees due to delayed payment of Sh700 million owed to them by the miller.

A number of them said they were yet to receive payment for their crop harvested between April and May last year.

“We thought Mumias would pay us before schools reopen, but that was not the case. Now my children have not reported to school due to lack of money,” said Alfred Osundwa.

Mr Osundwa, a father of five, said he expected to be paid Sh110,000.

The government had injected Sh2.76 billion into the State-owned company by end of last year as bailout money to help revamp it.

The government is yet to release a further Sh239 million to bring the figure to Sh3 billion, which is the total amount earmarked for the bailout.

Local leaders led by Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali said the money might not be forthcoming any time soon since the management was reluctant to submit documents showing how the funds released were spent.

“We want the management to give a full financial report on how the funds received were used and if they were directed to the intended use before expecting more money,” he said.

Earlier, the firm’s chief executive officer Errol Johnson noted that the bulk of the money was committed to factory rehabilitation in a bid to improve efficiency and cane development to address raw material shortage and payment of farmers’ arrears.

Mr Johnson admitted that his firm was yet to clear farmer’s arrears, which continue to accumulate into hundreds of millions of shillings.

The Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Deputy secretary-general Simon Wesechere asked the company to clear arrears owed to farmers before engaging in any other activity.

Mr Wesechere said arrears accumulated due to poor management strategy that has plunged the factory into serious crisis.