Farmers demand sugar task force findings

Sugarcane transportation. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Sugarcane transportation. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Sugarcane farmers from Kakamega County have demanded the release of findings of a task force appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to look into ways of addressing challenges bedevilling the sugar sub-sector in the western region.

The task force was formed in November last year following a directive by President Kenyatta and was to hand in its report after six months.

The team co-chaired by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya went round sugarcane growing parts of the country collecting farmers' views on revival of the sector.

Farmers now claim the sugar industry was at a standstill and their expectations that the sub-sector was getting a new lease of life after the task force report were waning.

Mr Justin Mutobera, a farmer from Mumias East and Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers assistant secretary-general Simon Wesechere say the task force findings should be made public to clear the confusion among the stakeholders in the sector.


Taking long

Speaking separately, the farmers accused the Kiunjuri-led team of taking long to release the report, claiming that farmers were eager to know the outcome.

“We expected this report to be available within six months. But it is running into a full year yet there is nothing to show. We are getting worried again,” said Mr Mutobera.

He asked President Kenyatta to push the two co-chairmen to release their findings so farmers can know what is contained in the report.

Mr Wesechere wondered why the members and the government have remained mum over the fate of the report that is expected to be holding critical information aimed at reviving the sugar industry in the country.

“The delay in releasing the report may affect the implementation of some recommendations key in reviving the ailing sector,” said Mr Wesechere, noting that interference by a section of farmers on the zoning aspect might have affected the release of the report.

Highlights of the report, according to sources, include privatisation of the struggling sugar mills and controls in sugar imports, as some measures to revive the ailing sector.

Farmers agreed to most of the findings and proposals at a validation meeting that was convened in March.

Thorny issue

The zoning, however, remains a thorny issue.

In May, Mr Oparanya formed another task force to look in ways of reviving the cash-strapped Mumias Sugar Company, sparking controversy, given that it was coming before the team he had chaired had made its findings public.

He announced that the team had two weeks to present its findings to him so that he can take up the revival of the firm with President Kenyatta.

The farmers also questioned why the team led by Kakamega County Trade, Industrialisation and Tourism had entered into the fourth month without giving out its findings.

“The more time we take talking about streamlining the sugar industry, the worse the situation becomes. It is better if those mandated to look into ways of reviving the sector can move with speed, give out their recommendations for action to be taken,” added Mr Mutobera.