- MD says firm needs immediate full maintenance to process more cane to raise revenue
- Sony owes cane farmers about Sh552 million in arrears
Sony Sugar's machines are obsolete and must be fixed to revive the moribund miller located in Awendo town, the management says.
The company needs Sh346 million for a thorough overhaul but attempts to get Sh210 million from Migori county government have failed.
The machines were last properly maintained five years ago. Residents who were used to seeing smoke billowing from the factory in Migori county nowadays only catch a sporadic glimpse when the machines roar in fits and starts.
Acting managing director James Oluoch said Sony needs immediate full maintenance to process more tons of cane a day to raise revenue that would lift the firm from its knees.
He spoke last week when members of the Nyanza Regional Development Implementation Coordination Committee toured the company.
“We can no longer predict the revenue of the company because the machines break down often,” Oluoch said.
Committee chairman James Kianda who is the Nyanza region commissioner was in the area to inspect development projects funded by the national government accompanied by Migori county commissioner Joseph Rotich.
At full capacity the factory processes 100 tons of cane, producing more than 10 tons of sugar. But because of current situation it only produces three to four tons.
“This scenario has led to delay in paying cane farmers and the company employees,” Oluoch said.
Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Sony branch secretary Argwengs Adongo told the Star Sony owes members about Sh552million.
“We don’t know the exact amount because since the machines started spluttering, milling and harvesting have been so erratic including payment. We are planning a meeting with management within a week over the same,” Adongo said.
He said their woes are compounded by government failure to regulate the sugar sector by curbing illegal imports and cane poaching.
Close to 2,000 workers at the factory demand Sh548 million in salary arrears. They got the last payment in March.
“We have been ensuring operations run smoothly in Sony despite the hiccups. But unless the machines are maintained we will lose out,” said John Ogutu, the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers organising secretary.
Albert Chacha, a hotel owner in Awendo town, said Sony's woes have affected their businesses as over 3,000 workers employed directly and indirectly by the factory are now broke.
“We have over Sh2 billion for workers, suppliers and sugarcane farmers locked up in Sony. This is money which should be in circulation,” Chacha said.
He said businesses are running on loans and operate in a poor environment caused by insecurity.
Former Awendo MP Jared K’Opiyo who is a board member at Sony said the two levels of government should intervene and save struggling sugar millers which support close to 10 million Kenyans.
Company chairman Charles Owino Likowa said the company faced over 8,000 suits in court instigated by unscrupulous lawyers working in cahoots with a clique of farmers to fleece the company.