Millers call for tougher rules on cane poaching

A tractor delivers cane a sugar factory in Western Kenya. file photo | nmg
A tractor delivers cane a sugar factory in Western Kenya. file photo | nmg 

Sugar milling companies in western Kenya want new regulations to cut losses caused by shortage of raw materials due to rampant poaching of cane.

The millers have petitioned Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett to gazette new guidelines on cane poaching to streamline operations in the sugar sector and cushion farmers from losses.

Nzoia Company board of management chairman Joash Wamang’oli said the milling firm lost over Sh2 billion in the past two years as a result of cane poaching. He added that introduction of new regulations would help address the vice.

“We want zoning reintroduced since we  have lost a lot of cane to our rival factories through cane poaching which has impacted negatively on the steady supply of our raw materials,” disclosed Mr Wamang’oli. He blamed barons in the sugar sector for frustrating  gazettement of the new laws.

The laws impose hefty penalties on sugar companies involved in cane poaching. The firms are required to source cane only from contracted farmers.

“It is unfortunate that we have lost four employees as a result of protracted cane poaching, which will be resolved once the new guidelines are operational,” said Mr Wamang’oli, adding that the regulations have been forwarded to the CS for gazettment.

The company expects  to  receive Sh300 million from the government for annual routine maintenances of its machines to increase its milling capacity. Recently, it unveiled fast maturing crop production methods to resolve recurrent cane shortages.

“It is normal for any sugar milling company to close down for maintenance of machines and other equipment. This does not necessarily affect other businesses of the firm,” said Mr Wamang’oli. The firm will close down for six weeks after the government releases cash for annual repairs of its machines.

“The factory boiler is almost bursting for failure to carry out servicing due to lack of funds,” said Mr Wamang’oli.