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Economy

Sugar lobby opposes plans to reintroduce cane zoning

A tractor in Kabras sugarcane zone in Kakamega
A tractor in Kabras sugarcane zone in Kakamega. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A sugar lobby has opposed the plans to re-introduce zoning to sugar factory amid fierce battle between West Kenya and Busia Sugar over control of cane in the western belt.

The Sugar Campaign for Change (Sucam) says zoning of sugarcane farmers is an anti-competitive practice that will disadvantage the growers.

“Zoning forces farmers to be tied to a single buyer for their crops, and that just quite simple removes all opportunity to get any price but one, as set by the miller they are allocated to,” said Michael Arum, the lobby’s coordinator.

“Zoning has been abandoned in sugar industries worldwide as it is destructive, so why is it good for Kenya’s sugar industry?" He asked.

He also accused the recently formed task force that is reviewing the problems facing cane growers for lacking representation of farmers.

Under the zoning regime, sugar millers are required to be constructed at a radius of 25 kilometres from the other, a move that has been criticised by stakeholders.

Court order

West Kenya Sugar Company had in April obtained a court order stopping the sugar regulator from issuing Busia Sugar an operating licence, putting on hold its Sh1.3 billion investment.

The High Court however dismissed the case in November giving the State agency a leeway to issue the permit.

Busia Sugar has over the past five years been fighting to get a milling licence but numerous court cases existing millers filed seeking to protect their territory crippled its efforts.

West Kenya Sugar Company, which is also owned by the Rai family, has been in a vicious battle with the Butali Sugar Company in the past over the zoning distance.

The two firms are located at close proximity from each other.

Sucam chairman Saulo Busolo said the lobby will from next week start seeking opinion from farmers in regard to what ails the sugar sector in the country, in what appears to be a parallel exercise that is being conducted currently by the sugar taskforce.

“The current taskforce lacks the representation of farmers and so we want to conduct our own survey that will bring together all the stakeholders,” said Mr Busolo.

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