The former and current elected leaders from the country’s sugarcane belts are to blame for the crisis that is currently plaguing and threatening the survival of the country’s sugar industry with total collapse.
The leaders totally failed to lobby for, craft and enact legislation that protects sugarcane millers and farmers including support from the government like that enjoyed by tea and coffee farmers throughout the country.
The worst aspect of this crop of elected leaders is that instead of fighting for the interests of the farmers and the millers have turned out to be predators that prey on the millers to satisfy their personal interests.
There are no former and current Members of Parliament (MPs), Senators, Governors, Women Representatives or even County Representatives from the country’s sugarcane growing belts in the former Nyanza and Western province who have come out with tangible steps that could save the sugar sub-sector that is threatened with collapse besides lobbying for government bailouts.
Unlike the tea and coffee sub-sectors’ the farmers and processors of the crops have time and again been bailed out of persistent problems by the government to keep them going while the sugar industry which has been grappling with a wide range of challenges has been abandoned to predators.
The Sugarcane Development Fund which is now under the Sugar Directorate gets its revenue directly from the sugar industry to try and shore it from and adverse challenges, but this is not enough. The government and the elected leaders from the sugar belts have an obligation and responsibility to the sugar sector that they have failed to fulfill.
Because of these compounded failure to put in place sound policies, legislation and programmes with effective implementation have led to the adverse consequences that the sugar industry is now facing in the country.
When MPs from Western province met President Uhuru Kenyatta who expressed his concerns about the performance of the country’s giant sugar company, Mumias Sugar Company among other millers, none of the MPs raised any tangible issue concerning the sector yet these very same MPs, Senators, Governors, Women Representatives and even County representatives know very well that sugarcane farming is the economic backbone as the only cash crop of the very people who elected them into office.
They also know that there are extremely serious problems plaguing the sector like the more than three years sugarcane poaching crisis that has brought the industry to its knees. These elected leaders want sugarcane production, the milling of sugar including the production of other related by-products to collapse meaning the economic collapse of the region to take place so that their voters are consigned to permanent poverty.
The other sugar companies which are threatened by a conglomeration of challenges that have forced sugar production in Kenya to be the highest in the world include, Nzoia, Butali and West Kenya Sugar Company which is in the records of the Sugar Directorate and even Parliament as being at the centre of the sugarcane poaching crisis in Western province.
The others located in the former Nyanza province sugarcane belt include, Sony, Kibos, Chemilil, Muhoroni and the country’s oldest sugar company Miwani which collapsed more than a decade ago and is yet to be brought back to its feet.
Of all the sugar companies in the country, Mumias Sugar Company is the only company which has consistently since its inception in 1976 posted sterling performance and profits before and after its privatization until when recently when hell broke loose.
Mumias Sugar which produces half of the country’s annual sugar supplies is also the first to embrace diffuser technology in sugar production, electricity production sold to the national electric grid with diversification into ethanol and bottled water production – yet its operations and performance has been adversely hit by the ongoing high level corruption and rampant sugarcane poaching from its contracted farmers both in Busia and Kakamega Counties.
Though the company had invested more than Kshs. 3 billion in sugarcane development, since the eruption of the poaching crisis triggered off by the former Kenya Sugar Board for the lack of enforcing its on laws and regulations and West Kenya which has no contracted farmers nor ever invested in sugarcane development programmes, it has been losing more than Kshs. 3.5 billion annually as a result of the poaching crisis.
Some of the elected leaders from the region are being compromised by the cartel behind the sugarcane poaching crisis to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the problem as the entire sugar industry is compromised to its demise.
These elected leaders should explain to the electorate who are sugarcane farmers who elected them why they have always kept quiet on the sugar poaching issue when the economic backbone of the entire region is deliberately being killed like what happened to the cotton industry in these same regions.
The situation has been worsened by the same leaders’ failure to enact legislation, policies and programmes that could have drastically reduced the high costs of sugarcane production in the country despite having severally been granted safeguard periods by COMESA where member countries’ production costs are extremely low.
The situation is so bad on the ground that the cartel involved in sugarcane poaching have in the recent past involved in poaching of under-age sugarcane that is below 7 months instead of the mature one which is supposed to be 17 months and above, this implies that the region is rapidly running out of sugarcane which may force the closure of factories.