- Michira said there is a ready market for the produce and he sells the jaggery produce to animal feed manufacturers as far as Tanzania and Uganda.
- He also has clients in Western, Nairobi and Kisii.
A jaggery producer has been making money from exportation of the unrefined sugar product to neighbouring countries for feed making.
Jaggery is a type of unrefined sugar that is made from sugar cane.
Geofrey Michira, a jaggery producer in Awendo, Migori county, said that the sukari nguru sweetener or unrefined sugar is made by boiling raw, concentrated sugarcane juice until it hardens.
The end product is usually dark yellow or brown in colour.
He said in order to remain in the business, one has to pay an annual license fee of Sh10,700.
He said they buy cane from frustrated farmers who prefer to sell their cane to them (jaggery producers) because they get their money at hand, rather than selling to the sugar companies whose payment may sometimes delay for more than a month.
“We go to where there is sugarcane farming and the price depends on the size of the sugarcane. There are times when there is a shortage of cane so we work with what is there,” Michira said.
Michira said there is a ready market for the produce and he sells the jaggery produce to animal feed manufacturers as far as Tanzania and Uganda. He also has clients in Western, Nairobi and Kisii.
The process of making of sukari nguru starts with selection of quality sugarcane from the farm. On then puts raw sugarcane in a crusher, which grates the cane into liquid form.
He said that once the cane has been cut, they extract juice from them and boil the liquid in boilers.
At the site, Michira was using seven boilers which he said must be in an open place. He said they do not mix with anything and the jaggery is made purely from the juice that has been extracted from the canes.
He said mature cane produces good quality jaggery but immature canes produce low quality produce. Mature ones can produce 120 pieces while immature ones can produce 60-70 pieces.
Ray Onyancha, a casual labourer who works in jaggery production, says nothing goes to waste and the stalks that remain once all the juice has been squeezed out is used as a source of heat.
“Then the liquid is put into a big boiling pot for at least one hour. Once the liquid has boiled, it turns to a brown liquid,” he said.
He added that after that you remove it from the heat, put the hot liquid into specific jaggery cups for another one to two hours and then let it settle down.
“Once it has cooled off, you remove it from the cups and it will have taken the shape of the cups. The jaggery is then ready for sale and they sell at between Sh50 to Sh75 depending on the size.”
Michira said he has been in the business for 17 years and his customers buy the sukari nguru in bulk. Prices range from Sh35 to Sh70 and most of these buyers are from Migori, Tanzania and Uganda. He sells others to alcohol manufactures to make spirits.
He started the jaggery business in Kisii and has now expanded to Kilgoris and Narok due to availability of the cane.
“We go to where there is sugarcane harvesting. Currently, the cane harvesting season in Migori county has ended and they will be moving to Masaailand,” he said.
Michira said he pays farmers in cash unlike sugar companies where farmers have to wait. This, he said, is the reason why some farmers prefer to sell to them instead of waiting for the payment.
Robert Okoth, a sugarcane farmer from Mulo village, Awendo subcounty, in Migori county, has been a farmer for close to 20 years.
He confirmed that most non-contracted farmers prefer to sell their cane to the sukari nguru producers because they buy at a better price and payment is immediate, though there are still some unscrupulous jaggery producers who disappear without paying the farmers.
Okoth said sugarcane farming is faced with numerous challenges, including low production and poor prices.
“Prices have gone down five years ago from Sh5,000 per tonne to between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500,” he said.
Nutritionists say jaggery is good for the prevention of respiratory problems, controlling blood pressure and refining blood that helps fight anaemia.
Data also shows that the product helps maintain intestinal health, detoxifies lives and prevents constipation, and it is an excellent remedy for menstrual cramps as well.