Cane farmers want higher pay as sugar price rises

They ask factories to pay them Sh4, 200 per tonne

In Summary

• Price of sugar per 50kg bag has risen from Sh3, 600 to Sh4, 200 due to the commodity’s shortage

• Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association tells the Sugar Directorate to enforce higher pay

Sugar stock at a warehouse in Muhoroni Sugar Company
LOW PRODUCTION: Sugar stock at a warehouse in Muhoroni Sugar Company

Sugarcane farmers across the country want sugar companies to pay them more following an increase in the price of sugar.

A 50kg bag costs Sh4, 200 up from Sh3, 600 due to the commodity’s shortage.

Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association secretary general Richard Ogendo told the Sugar Directorate to enforce higher pay.

Ogendo said on Wednesday most  millers pay farmers between Sh3, 400 to Sh3, 900 per tonne of cane. They want the factories to pay them Sh4, 200 per tonne of cane delivered.

Ogendo said the sugar industry is operating at less than 40 per cent capacity. This, he said, is because the giant Mumias, Chemelil and Muhoroni companies are not crushing enough quantities.

The low crushing is due to cane shortage.

Ogendo called on sugar companies both state-owned and private to build more weigh bridges to cut the cost of transport usually incurred by farmers.

The secretary general further asked the factories to pay farmers all the arrears owed to enable them pay school fees on time.

Chemelil and Muhoroni owe farmers about Sh38 million and Sh61million in arrears respectively, Ogendo said.

Muhoroni receiver manager Elisha Ooko said they crush three to four days in a week. He attributed that to the low volume of cane and change of weather.

He denied Muhoroni owes millions in arrears to farmers. “Any amount payable within a month is not arrears. We owe farmers Sh38 million for cane delivered in a month,” Ooko said.

He, however, said the company requires about Sh214 million for maintenance.

On April 2, Chemelil suspended sugar production after farmers refused to deliver cane over non-payment of Sh61 million arrears. The company has been starved of cane to crush for the last one month.

MD Gabriel Nyangweso said they have no stock of sugar in their warehouse. “We are not crushing. We halted crushing in early March due to cane shortage, making production uneconomical,” he said.

Nyangweso added, “We are monitoring the situation and will resume operation once there is enough cane to crush.”

The pay is not part of the Sh2.7 billion allocated by the national government to clear the debt the state-owned millers owe growers. The Sh61 million arrears is not part of Sh 210 million to be offset by the government.

The farmers also protested the delay by the Ministry of Agriculture to pay them Sh210 million arrears. The amount is part of the Sh2.7 billion bailout.