South Nyanza Sugar Company lost cane valued at Sh2.3 billion to private firms notorious for cane poaching in that region, MPs heard yesterday.
The cane, according to the company’s acting managing director Bernard Otieno, had sugar value of Sh5 billion when processed.
Sony had invested Sh400 million in the farmers from 2011 to date.
Otieno claimed Sukari Industries and Mara Sugar in Trans Mara is responsible for the rampant poaching, which has almost made it difficult for the state-owned miller to operate.
He noted the private millers are capitalising on the small-scale farmers’ vulnerability and convince them to sell contracted sugarcane.
“Even as we speak now I continue losing sugar to the poachers. I can show you the dates, from which plot numbers and which quantity gone to who and where,” said Bernard.
“Complains have been taken to the regulator and the police. We are helpless, we had submissions that breach of contract is a civil matter and Police have taken view that they cannot approach it as criminal matter.”
Rongo MP Paul Abuor, in whose constituency lies the miller, called for tightening of the contractual agreement with farmers to allow the firm take legal action in case of a breach.
“The company should find a way of getting into contractual agreement with the farmers so that in the event of
cane poaching, the company can go to court,” he said.
The acting MD told the lawmakers that the company is currently piloting clustering of farmers in groups of ten each for easier accountability.
The only surviving miller – according to the acting MD – has been forced to incur extra expenses in hiring additional personnel to mount surveillance in the contracted plots to ensure their canes are intact.
“Part of it is theft while in some cases it is collusion with farmers as the private millers offers them opportunity to escape from their contractual obligations,” he stated.
The Sony boss also cautioned against setting up of the proposed Kisii-based Nyangweta Sugar Factory claiming the area is already over-served by both Sony and Mara companies.
Stakeholders in the industry have been rooting for introduction of regional zoning to curb the poaching menace occasioned by undue scramble for cane.