Farmers protest move to reduce sugarcane price

Tractors deliver cane to a crusher at Butali Sugar Mills, Kakamega. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NMG
Tractors deliver cane to a crusher at Butali Sugar Mills, Kakamega. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NMG 

Farmers have criticised the move by the Sugar Directorate to lower the price of cane per tonne.

The farmers, through their representatives, said the directorate should have instead increased the price because of the acute cane shortage.

“We do not even have enough cane to take to the factories. Millers are struggling to get what to crush,” said Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers (KUSPAW) secretary-general Francis Wangara.

He said the directorate should look for a way of motivating farmers to plant more cane by increasing the price.

“Why lower the price now? It’s true that most millers are not crushing to capacity because of lack of raw material. Why is the directorate favouring the millers yet farmers struggle a lot to plant cane? he posed.

Sugar Directorate chief executive Solomon Odera announced at the weekend that the price per tonne of cane had reduced from Sh4,320 to Sh4,052 because millers could not afford to pay the initial figures charged by farmers.

Richard Ogendo, an official of the Kenya National Sugarcane Growers Association, said the price reduction was in bad faith.

“We are already grappling with sugar shortage in the country and what they should have done is to find a way of ensuring that farmers are comfortable,” he said.

Mr Ogendo said he expected them to increase the tonnage price to Sh4,500 to motivate farmers to grow more cane.

“It is very simple; we will not deliver any sugar to millers paying less than Sh4,350,” he said. Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers deputy national chairman Charles Atyang protested the reduction of price saying farmers were not involved.

“We are the farmers, we need to be involved when decisions are being made, whether good or bad,” he said adding that the reason given by the directorate for the move is not convincing.

Farmers also criticised the Mumias Sugar Company for telling farmers to develop cane on their own. Mr Wangara said farmers are unable to develop cane on their own “until and unless they are paid what the (sugar) companies owe them”.