Sugarcane farmers from western Kenya have filed a petition to parliament pressurizing for the implementation of the Parliamentary Report on the crisis facing the sugar industry released by the eleventh Parliament.
The farmers are arguing that implementation of the recommendations of the report will save them from total financial ruin since they completely depended on sugarcane cash crop as their economic lifeline.
They argue that this will also save the sugar industry in the country from collapse with devastating consequences to millions of people from the western Kenya region who depended on the industry either directly or indirectly.
The petition was filed with the Clerk of the National Assembly on behalf of the farmers by the chairman Western Development Initiative Association (WEDIA), Joseph Barasa this week after a prolonged silence since the release of the parliamentary report.
Mr. Barasa said: “We wish to once again kindly request you to expedite for speedy action on the above mentioned matter which was passed by the 11th Parliament presided over by you but has to date remained moribund without any action.”
He says that in their petition to our National Assembly over the same matter were details of what they were requesting to ensure that they are implemented to the letter particularly in reference to the Parliamentary Report on the same titled – ‘The Crisis Facing the Sugar Industry.”
The WEDIA boss argues that this will not only save sugarcane farmers from untold suffering, but will also save the country’s sugar industry from collapsing the way the cotton industry did decades ago.
The farmers argue in their petition that failure by the House to implement the report as was required gave the unscrupulous businessmen a wide avenue to continue flooding the local market with cheap sugar smuggled in the country as it is thus aggravating the already struggling sector.
That rampant sugarcane poaching crisis in the former Western Province is emerging as a national disaster that has led to violence among millers leading to death of people and some sustaining fatal injuries, destruction of property and protracted legal battles between some millers.
The current development is following the successful petition by WEDIA to Parliament in 2013 dubbed “Imminent Collapse of the Sugar Industry in Western Kenya” the Agriculture committee of the National Assembly after summoning various stakeholders including WEDIA to appear before it, went ahead to compile a Report dubbed “The Crisis Facing the Sugar Industry in Kenya”.
The substantive report was later overwhelmingly adopted by the eleventh parliament in 2016, however up-to date, the report has not been implemented. According to the petition to the parliament, the farmers were praying that the report should be implemented altogether to provide equal level playground for all players in the sugar industry
The farmers point out that individuals or companies implicated or involved in the crisis facing sugar industry as per the report to face the full force of the law and their licenses revoked forthwith
They demand that any miller found poaching sugarcane contracted by another firm be prosecuted to restore sanity in the sector adding that all weighbridges set up illegally be removed and license of the respective company revoked with immediate effect
That Corporate organizations, personalities and public figures with vested interests should be made to come clean and publicly declare their interests. The farmers argue in the petition: “That we have seen it prudence to petition the current parliament to move with speed and implement the report for the sake of farmers and stakeholders in the sugar sector across the nation.
“That in the petition we presented to the previous assembly, smuggling of cheap sugar into the country was a key factor affecting growth of the sugar industry in the country,” they continued. They are telling the National Assembly that sugarcane poaching between millers, unlawful setting up of weighbridges and high scale corruption at the Sugar Directorate came to fore as other factors bedeviling the industry
The petitioners say that local sugar industry was hit hard due to importation of cheap sugar which forced millers to stockpile their produce that accumulated to more than 40, 000 tonnes by the end of 2012. The stated: “This state of affairs in the long run forced most of the millers to close up if not all of them since they could not sell anything in a market already flooded with cheap sugar smuggled into the country by unscrupulous businessmen.”
They say that the worst hit was Mumias Sugar Company that even concerted efforts by the national government to revive it have borne little fruits. Rampant sugarcane poaching of its contracted cane by rival millers crowned by the flooding of cheap sugar into the market was to blame.
“This sad state of affairs saw the company in 2011 for the first time post operational losses in excess of Kshs 1 billion since it had been forced to operate well below its operational capacities because it had no sufficient raw materials to sustain it,” reads part of the petition.
It says that to date billions of shillings have been lost and more continues to go down the drain as a result of the ongoing sugarcane poaching crisis that has gripped the former Western province region for more than two years running.
The petition further reads: “It is estimated that Mumias Sugar Company which has borne the brunt of the poaching crisis has been losing more than Kshs. 3 billion annually over the last five years yet it had invested more than Kshs. 3 billion in sugarcane development.”
It points out that although the President Uhuru Kenyatta took issue with the poor performance of some of the sugar companies, especially the country’s leading sugar producer Mumias Sugar Company during a meeting with MPs from the region, the genesis and core of the problem was seen to be deeply rooted in the sugarcane poaching crisis that the then Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) now the Sugar Directorate under AFFA and the ministry of agriculture have failed to resolve to date.
The worst hit sugar companies by the crisis since 2011 are the country’s leading sugar producer, Mumias Sugar Company in Kakamega County, Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County and Butali Sugar Company also of Kakamega County.