- There has been a sugarcane crisis in the larger Western region following neglect of the sugar industry by key stakeholders.
- The shut-down directive by Afa was issued during a stakeholders meeting chaired by Afa director in charge of Sugar Directorate Jude Chesire.
The decision by the Agriculture and Food Authority to suspend operations in sugar factories has hit hard traders operating near millers.
The closure meant that employees working in sugar mills return home, denying businesses heavily reliant on factory workers for profit to make money.
On Wednesday traders in Tangakona who operate near Olepito Sugar factory in Busia said they are worried youth who used to work in the mills for a living may resort to theft to fend for themselves and their families.
They also said closing the factories had taken a toll order on local businesses.
AFA’s decision to shut millers for three months, starting July, is meant to enable sugar firms address the sugarcane shortage challenge before reopening.
There has been a sugarcane crisis in the larger Western region following neglect of the sugar industry by key stakeholders, a development that pushed farmers away from cane production.
“We want to appeal to President William Ruto that when these factories be reopened?. However, each miller must have its own sugar cane to mill. The sugarcane we have in farms now is enough to bring back business activity and enable many of us earn,” Stephen Orachi from Tangakona said.
Shops, fish dealers and hotel owners operating near sugar millers, Orachi said, have consistently been making losses as a result of the shutdown.
“Employees who used to work in these millers have gone yet they used to provide a huge market for our local produce,” another trader Maryann Achieng’ said.
Achieng’ used to sell fish near Busia Sugar factory. Her major customers were factory employees.
“Unemployment has come in as a result of the shut-down. This means the purchasing power of people here has dropped,” she said.
“With insufficient money exchanging hands, we are worried our only remaining businesses including shops may be broken into because life has become too hard after factory employees were sent parking.”
Another resident John Bosco Lihanda said it was high time the government realised reopening. He added that supporting the sugar millers will go a long way in alleviating poverty among Kenyans particularly those in sugar growing counties.
“Businesses are closing down and we are recording a rise in youth unemployment,” Lihanda said.
“When the youth in this area were employed, they were busy and had no time to think about crime. But with the closing of mills, some of them have resorted to burglary to provide for themselves and their families.”
The shut-down directive by Afa was issued during a stakeholders meeting chaired by Afa director in charge of Sugar Directorate Jude Chesire.
The development led sugar millers to halt operations, leaving a minimal number of workers to run essential duties.
When sugar millers were ordered to close, Afa said all employees, except those working in critical departments would be require to proceed on paid leave.
Low activity in the millers, for years running, has pushed Kenya to become an importer of sugar, a product that the country sufficiently produced in the 80s and 90s.
Today, 52 percent of sugar consumed in the country official data shows is imported.
The business community in Busia expressed their worry at a time official reports showed Kenyan households were staring at a sugar crisis in the short-term amid rising prices, as retailers also run out of stock.
The development came on Afa’s shutdown directive.
Firms from the region which have since shut their machines include West Kenya Sugar Company (Kabras) and Butali Sugar Mills.
Other privately-owned and ailing state sugar millers are already out of production.
Mumias Sugar Company (under receivership), had halted operations two months earlier.
They are expected to resume crushing at the end of September, a move that has created a product shortage.
Private millers in the region include West Kenya, Kibos Sugar, Butali Sugar Mills, Transmara Sugar Company, Sukari Industries Limited, KISCOL, Kisii Sugar Factory and West Valley Sugar.
Mumias, Nzoia, Sony Sugar, Muhoroni and Chemelil Sugar are state owned.
Government data indicates national demand for sugar currently stands at 1.01 million metric tonnes against local production of 490,704 metric tonnes, leaving an annual deficit of 521,695 metric tonnes.
Kenya has a milling capacity of 14.96 million metric tonnes (41,000 tonnes of cane per day).