Miller roots for cane zoning

Farmers demos in Kisumu on Monday.They are opposed to Zoning./Faith Matete
Farmers demos in Kisumu on Monday.They are opposed to Zoning./Faith Matete

A private sugar miller in Nyando sugar belt supports zoning of sugar mills to end cane poaching in the country.

Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries Limited (KSAIL)recommends zoning as part of the streamlining of a sector bedevilled by a myriad of challenges.

Corporate affairs director Joyce Opondo said they are opposed to mill command zones.

“We have been pushing as much as possible for the regulation to be gazetted to bring order in the industry. We would also like to ensure that there is regional zoning to have mills that effectively serve farmers in a particular area,” Opondo said.

Five zones have been identified for regulation; Lower Western, Upper Western, Central, South Nyanza and Coast.

Opondo told the press at Kibos factory that the miller is in Central zone and will be expected to source cane within its jurisdiction.

Recently, farmers in Kisumu demonstrated against the National Sugar taskforce for non-representation insisting that they do not want monopoly and hence will not allow zoning.

Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF) national Treasurer Stephen Narupa maintained that they will not allow the sneaking in of zoning in the sugar regulation.

“We are Kenyans and we are one, we want free markets, we are saying no to zoning,” he added.

Opondo however said that the zones will come up with a committee board comprising farmers, millers and county government officials.

She said regional zoning will end rampant cases of sugarcane poaching from contracted farmers.

She said some millers had perfected the art of getting immature cane from farmers contracted by other millers.

“Regional zoning will curtail the problems of poaching. We have seen instances where millers come from one zone to another and instead of buying mature cane, they buy those not mature from farmers. Since some of the farmers urgently need for money, they end up selling such,” Opondo added.

Farmers oppose zoning to maintain their freedom of choosing where to sell their cane.

They claim zoning will deny them opportunity to benefit from healthy competition among the millers. It will restrict farmers to specific millers yet some of them either pay late or little.

Farmer Charles Atiang’ Atiang’ said that farmers should be allowed to sell their canes to millers who pay them well and in time for them to finance their daily needs.

During the demonstration, one farmer told the Star that the sugar cane business should be guided by willing seller, willing buyer provision.

Many farmers are thinking of abandoning growing cane for alternative crops.

Nearly 40 years into cane farming, more than 50,000 farmers still live in ramshackle shelters and cannot educate their children, clothe them properly.