Sugar millers to face cane shortage, report shows

Most factories are performing below capacity as the industry's troubles persist

In Summary
  • Once premier miller Mumias Sugar Company stopped milling over two years ago and is currently under receivership by the KCB group over unredeemed debentures.
  • A cane availability report by the Agriculture and Food Authority on forecast in the sugar sector says that the millers will face a shortfall of 677, 584 tonnes of sugarcane by end of June.
West Kenya Sugar Company managing director Tejveer Rai (left) during the launch of a new tractor fleet at Shamberere last year.
SUGAR SECTOR TROUBLES: West Kenya Sugar Company managing director Tejveer Rai (left) during the launch of a new tractor fleet at Shamberere last year.
Image: HILTON OTENYO
West Kenya Sugar's new tractors launched last year.
MORE PROBLEMS: West Kenya Sugar's new tractors launched last year.
Image: HILTON OTENYO

Sugar millers in the country will face a deficit of the raw materials in what could trigger sugar shortage in coming months.

The sugar industry is going through turmoil with state-owned factories performing poorly due to poor management, corruption and poor crop husbandry.

The government has begun the process of leasing the five state-owned millers to turn around their performance. They are Chemilil, Miwani, Nzoia, Sony and Muhoroni sugar companies.

The once premier miller Mumias Sugar Company, stopped milling over two years ago, and is is currently under receiverships by the KCB group over unredeemed debentures.

A cane availability report by the Agriculture and Food Authority on forecast in the sugar sector says that the millers will face a shortfall of 677,584 tonnes of sugarcane by end of June.

It was projected that 5,084,416 tonnes of sugarcane will be available for crushing between December 2020 and June 2021 against the industry’s mill cane requirement of 5,767,657 tonnes.

The shortage however shows an improvement from 3,679,655 tonnes that was milled in the country for the period running from December 2019 to June 2020.

The shortage of cane supply to millers could trigger shortage of sugar that may necessitate importation of the commodity to stabilise supply.

The survey says 9,276,657 tonnes of cane will be available against the industry's requirements of 9,971,000 tonnes during the season running 2021/2022. This will leave a shortage of 694,343 tonnes.

It says West Kenya, Sukari Industries and Butali sugar mills will have substantial cane surpluses while Trans Mara and Olepito will experience moderate surpluses in supplies.

Kibos sugar and Allied Industries, South Nyanza, Chemilil, Nzoia and Kwale factories will experience supply deficits.

Generally, the industry will experience improved supplies if regional inter-mill cane transfers will be adopted," it reads.

The study conducted between December 7 and 17, 2020 says areas under sugarcane increased from 196,806 hectares to 202,616 hectares between December 2019 and December 2020.

West Kenya sugar factory has 50,000 hectares under the crop up from 46,484 hectares in 2019, according to the survey.

West Kenya has contracted farmers in Kakamega, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Mandi and Uasin Gishu counties.

The survey was meant to establish the overall cane availability in the industry and to determine the crop distribution by crop cycle, age and variety in all sugar zones.

It also sought to identify the constraints to cane production and develop mitigating strategies.

The report has recommended that millers synchronise cane availability with factory cane requirement through cane development to avoid future shortages.

“In the meantime adopt structured inter-mill cane transfers between neighbouring mills experiencing surplus and deficit cane supply,” it reads.

It has also recommended that millers adopt prompt payment of farmers' proceeds for cane deliveries by all millers to facilitate maintenance of subsequent rations.

The survey also found the need for all factories to implement seed cane development programmes in all factories to avail clean planting material to growers through adoption of enhanced propagation of local improved cane varieties.

-Edited by SKanyara