Sugarcane farmers will have to wait longer before they are paid their dues amounting to Sh2.6 billion for their deliveries to public millers, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has said.
Mr Kiunjuri on Wednesday said the government has set up a committee to audit the farmers who are owed, before any payment is paid.
He said this is aimed at avoiding challenges witnessed in the payment of maize suppliers to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
“I have already written to the National Treasury to avail the funds,” Mr Kiunjuri said, in reference to the payment ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kakamega on October 20.
He added: “On the other hand, we have formed a committee to verify the claims. Whether the people making the claims are genuine farmers or not. We also want to know whether the farmers owe these factories money.”
The ministry will start paying the farmers as soon as the committee completes its audit.
“I plead with farmers to allow us to go slow on this matter so that we don’t get it wrong. We want to be so thorough such that no ghost farmer will be paid.”
The CS was speaking in his office when he inaugurated a 17-member Sugar Industry Task force which is expected to revitalise the sector facing challenges ranging from low cane supply, cane poaching, obsolete technology, high debt portfolio and excess sugar importation.
The CS is expected to tour North Rift and western regions where he will address both maize ands sugar farmers on the sticky matter of the payments.
The CS was responding to a call by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who had challenged the ministry to heed the president’s directive and start paying farmers their arrears as a catalyst of reviving sugarcane growing.
“We need to start paying the farmers their arrears as ordered by the President. We must carry out an audit as quickly as possible and ensure that farmers are paid without further delay to encourage them into going back to sugarcane growing,” Mr Oparanya said.
In his Mashujaa (Heroes) Day address, the President Kenyatta ordered the Mr Kiunjuri to form the task force to look at the challenges in the sector and also ensure that all monies owed by State-owned sugar factories to farmers are paid but only after a thorough audit is done.
The task force, is co-chaired by Mr Kiunjuri and Mr Oparanya and will the task force, will have 30 days to submit its report with specific deliverables once its gazetted by the Attorney-General Paul Kihara.
Members of the task force are governors Okoth Obado and Anyang Nyongo (Council of Governors), Ms Janerose Omondi (Privatisation Commission), Mr Benard Otieno (Public millers), Mr Jayantilal Gopal Patel (private millers), Dr Ken Ngumbau (private millers) and Ms Caroline Lentupuru (Intergovernmental Relations Technical Committee).
Others are Mr Patrick Omutia (Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council), Mr Zakayo Magara (Ministry of Agriculture), Mr Solomon Odera (Agriculture and Food Authority), Mr Solomon Kitungu (National Treasury), Mr Emmanuel Wangwe (National Assembly), Mr Francis Waswa (Kenya National Sugarcane Federation) and Ms Beverly Lamenya (Attorney General’s office).
The Senate will also be represented but the House had not forwarded the name by Wednesday.