At long last the long awaited report on what is ailing the sugar industry in the country conducted by the Task Force led by the council of Governors Chairman and Kakamega County Governor Wycliffe Oparanya was at long last presented it’s findings to the government at the end of last week.
One of the most critical issues that emerged during the meeting is the state of the sugarcane farming in the country with millers having their zones with farmers stretched in at least 47 square kilometer zones contracted to produce and supply cane to millers located in that zone.
The other option is that of a free for all market where farmers produce the sugarcane at their own cost without cane development programmes as would be the case with zoned farmers contracted to millers in those with cane development programmes.
In this free for all situation the poor farmers are left to produce the crop at their own costs without any assurance of having a market to sell it when it matures as in the case when contracted with a milling company.
This means that the farmers in operating in a free for all market situation will be sitting ducks at the whims of the existing operational milling companies’ whims to manipulate demand situations meaning that the farmers will end stranded with their cane on the farms.
This is the state of affairs that West Sugar Company’s Moghul Jaswant Singh Rai is advocating for through hired mercenaries to enforce the edict throughout the Western and Nyanza region where the company does not have a single contracted sugarcane farmer to supply his factory with the raw material to produce sugar.
A situation that has literally destroyed any sugarcane development programmes in the region leading drastically reduced production aggravated by the thriving cane poaching crisis triggered by West Kenya, executed and maintained by the same company.
The situation on the ground is bad that with the giant Mumias Sugar Company having ground to a halt, huge areas right from Kakamega town all the way to Mumias town, past it to Butere, Bungoma and Busia that were once plush with the ever greenery of sugarcane on the farms in thousands of ares is no more.
Indeed West Kenya Sugar Company is even poaching under-age sugarcane from as far as Kibos in Kisumu county, Busia and Siaya counties from farmers contracted to millers operating in those counties to the West Kenya sugar factory in Kabras area in Kakamega county – hundreds of kilometres away thus bringing into question the issue of transport costs.
The Oparanya Task Force had traversed the entire western, Nyanza and Rift Valley sugarcane growing regions to talk to farmers, millers and stakeholders on the ground to identify the problems be-devilling the country’s sugar industry and the way forward to save it from total collapse like it happened to cotton farming in the region.
That was after the Presidential intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta last year in a bid to find a permanent solution to the country’s sugar industry as the nation was being fed on highly questionable and certified contaminated sugar by the Kenya National Bureau of Standards (KNBS).
Not forgetting the fact the parliamentary committee on agriculture’s investigations and report on the same was brought down in total disgrace as it emerged that some members of parliament sitting on the investigating committee’s had been compromised with bribes of as little as Kshs. 10, 000 to doctor their report.
What millions of Kenyans were not told is the fact that these bribes like the monies doing the rounds to hire mercenaries in the counties of the former Nyanza and western provinces are coming from West Kenya which is clearly determined to destroy competitors to remain a monopoly as a chief producer and importer of sugar into the country.
It should not be forgotten that last year at the height of imported adulterated and contaminated sugar into the country’s market hundreds of thousands tonnes of the same smuggled commodity was impounded by security officers from the West Kenya owned Pan-Paper Mills Warehouses in Webuye town of Bungoma county – if the sugar had been produced by the West Kenya sugar factory why was it not stored in its warehouses?
It is from this background that President Kenyatta commissioned the Oparanya Sugar Industry Task Force last whose findings were being presented to the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of agriculture Mwangi Kinjuri in a ceremony attended by millers, farmers’ representatives and stakeholders from all over the country at the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel hosted by Kisumu County’s governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o.
In a meeting held over the weekend in Kisumu only a few mercenaries led by Saul Busolo were heard shouting like maniacs. They were even denied chance to speak by the team. Jaswant Rai the man behind the push for free market was embarrassed at the meeting when other Millers isolated him.
What came out clearly is that despite Rai’s often violent push for a free for all market sugarcane situation, all the other millers representatives led by the dysfunctional giant Mumias Sugar, Nzoia, Butali, Busia Sugar Industries, South Nyanza Sugar Company (SONY), Kibos, Muhoroni, Miwani among other distanced themselves from the West Kenya baron.
The team however gave themselves one week after the meeting that was to deliberate on the report on whether the country should have zoning or not was disrupted by the noise makers who had been hired by Rai.
What queries have clearly erupted from these developments, why is it that it’s only Jaswant Singh Rai who is advocating for free market? Indeed it is expected that a shrewd Business man like Rai does not care whether the sugarcane farmers survive or not as long as he makes his profits in whichever the way.
In this case “sugar imports” is Rai’s main agenda, therefore it is clear that as long as Rai is in sugar business expect no justice. This Country is headed to feeding on 100% imported sugar with a third of it brought in by Rai.
Therefore what recently been agreed upon between Uhuru and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni that Kenya shall now increase its sugar imports from Uganda thrice as much as what we are currently getting from Uganda is another deadly nail in the country’s sugar industry coffin.
The end result here is simple -there shall be enough cheap dirty sugar on our tables but the farmer shall be forced out of business because no factory in Kenya will be ready to produce sugar to avoid it ending up rotting in warehouses. This is the route the country is headed.
Indeed this is the highway the country has taken the said sugar imports from Uganda…. the business that is now rampant along the borders of Busia and Malaba is purely Sugar from overseas for instance Brazil under the guise of Kinyara sugar Factory in Uganda owned by Rai.