OPEN PROCESS

Lake region leaders want talks before leasing of sugar mills

Cane farmers' lobby says the county chiefs are wasting time as the growers suffer

In Summary

• Governors under the umbrella of the Lake Region Economic Bloc want the process to be clear and devoid of cartels that have brought the sector to its knees.

• On Wednesday, LREB proposed that a committee comprising national and county officials be constituted to oversee the leasing process to ensure legitimacy.

Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya (C) with Kisumu counterpart Anyang' Nyong'o (R) during a presser at the Kakamega county headquarters on Wednesday July 22, 2020
Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya (C) with Kisumu counterpart Anyang' Nyong'o (R) during a presser at the Kakamega county headquarters on Wednesday July 22, 2020
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Lake region bloc leaders have demanded that the leasing of five sugar cane mills is halted until stakeholders agree on the process. 

The government has put up struggling Chemelil, Miwani, Muhoroni, Nzoia and South Nyanza sugar companies for leasing and revival by private firms. 

But governors under the umbrella of the Lake Region Economic Bloc want the process to be clear and devoid of cartels that have brought the sector to its knees.

On Wednesday, LREB proposed that a committee comprising national and county officials be constituted to oversee the leasing process to ensure legitimacy.

"Having deliberated on the content of the sugar task force report, we have resolved that the process of leasing be open, consultative to ensure the quality of the bids," Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o said on behalf of LREB. 

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) on July 10 called for firms to express interest in leasing the mills in a paid-up advertisement. 

The announcement followed a waiver of Sh62bn debts owed by the mills to state agencies and other lenders. The deadline for the EOI is August 3.

But Nyong'o said in Kakamega on Wednesday that the EOI should be suspended until all parties agree on the consultative process.    

 

The regional bloc also wants the sugar task-force report committee gazetted to oversee the full implementation of the report.

However, the National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers secretary general Ibrahim Juma said the governors' demands are a waste of time as farmers suffer.

 

"As farmers, we have been pushing for leasing of these factories. You're aware that governors will always say different things," Juma said.

The farmers want the leasing of the factories done immediately. 

"We as farmers were in a meeting at Mumias Sugar Company and Agriculture CS Peter Munya was there and we told him we have no problem with the leasing process. What consultation do they want?" Juma said.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi said the proposed leasing of the mills could either be a hoax or a customised sale of the firms for a song. He said the AFA was the wrong agency to use for such a venture.

“There should be public disclosure on debt owed by the factories, especially to farmers and how they will be paid before the lease. We don’t want farmers to be taken for a ride,” he said.

The five factories to be leased have a 30 per cent combined market share of the sugar industry.

The country's sugar consumption is estimated to be 1 million tonnes per year.

The sugar industry is a source of livelihoods to over 8 million Kenyans, largely in Western Kenya.

It's also a source of income to over 400,000 smallholder farmers who supply over 90 per cent of cane for milling.

Nzoia Sugar Company managing director Makokha Wanjala said the proposed leasing was welcome.          

"What we want is for the sugar industry to become vibrant again because it supports livelihoods of millions of people in this region," Wanjala said.

(edited by o. owino)