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Kenya; Sugarcane Farmers hit-out at Kenya Sugar Board.

Posted by African Press International on June 20, 2013

  • By Gilbert Ochieng Achieng.

The Kenya Sugar Board is directly responsible for the sugarcane poaching crisis that has nearly crippled the operations of the country’s leading sugar producer Mumias Sugar Company.

More than 500 sugarcane farmers from Busia and Mumias sugar belts yesterday accused the sugar board director for the two belts, Billy Wanjala of being part of the sugarcane poaching syndicate that has gripped the multi-billion shillings business in a stranglehold.

The farmers’ spokesman, Nicholas Makokha Shikanda said Wanjala who is in charge of Mumias and Busia sugar belts that are the lifeline of Mumias Sugar in cane supplies should explain why sugarcane poaching has for the last two years remained rampant in these two belts.

“We also challenge Wanjala to explain why the Kenya Sugar Board introduced West Kenya Sugar Company to buy cane in these belts when it knew that farmers here are all contracted to Mumias Sugar,’ said Shikanda, adding that as a KSB director representing these belts he has failed to spearhead a decisive action to be taken against the poachers.

The irate farmers were reacting to reports carried by a section of the media outlets quoting Wanjala as saying that poor planning and management was responsible for the crisis facing the sugar industry in Busia and Mumias sugar belts.

The Director was also quoted as saying that KSB expected Mumias Sugar to increase sugarcane acreage after releasing Kshs. 140 million to boost sugarcane development in the two areas as he welcomed the sacking of the MSC agriculture and factory managers and calling for the assessment of the current Chief Executive Peter Kebati to ascertain his capabilities.

“We know that. Wanjala has for years been closely operating with the former agriculture manager, West Kenya Sugar Company and the resulting cane poaching crisis. If there had been poor planning and management, Mumias Sugar could not have invested more than Kshs. 3 billion in sugarcane development for the last two years, what is Kshs. 140 million compared to three billion?,” said Shikanda.

The farmers at the same time accused Wanjala and the Sugar Board of introducing West Kenya Sugar Company into a territory occupied by farmers contracted to Mumias Sugar, just about the time Mr. Kebati took over management of Mumias Sugar to deliberately sabotage the company’s operations.

They challenged Wanjala and the Sugar Board to explain why it had completely failed to stamp out the cane poaching crisis and instead given a go ahead to West Kenya Sugar that does not have contracts for cane supplies with any farmer to build a factory in Busia belt under Mumias when it is not qualified.

The farmers defended Mumias Sugar CEO saying that though he had been at the helm for a short period of time, the restructuring programme he has embarked on at Mumias Sugar was the right direction, but KSB must put in place its act and take immediate action to stop sugarcane poaching to save the entire industry from total collapse.

The farmers’ organizing secretary Beatrice Wesonga said since its establishment in 1976, Mumias Sugar has been the most successful and profit-making sugar company in the country.

Apart from producing the largest tonnage of sugar in Kenya, it has the largest product range, because over the decades there was never rampant cane poaching in its zones of operation as is being witnessed today.”

Mrs. Wesonga dismissed. Wanjala’s call for the expansion of sugarcane production acreage in Siaya, Busia, Kakamega and Bungoma Counties saying it was not the solution to the cane shortage crisis since the critical problem was poaching which must be killed once and for all.

She said the Kshs. 140 million loan advanced by the KSB to Mumias Sugar for cane development was a drop in the ocean because the undertaking was very expensive right from land preparation through planting, fertilizers and other farm inputs including crop husbandry costs among others.

The farmers said that they had total confidence with the management of Mumias Sugar and the Company’s ability to succeed in its operations adding that the perception that it was ailing was wrong since the whole business was man-made by a few individuals who were out to make a killing out of the mess.

They further told Wanjala the delayed payments problems being experienced by the company were a direct result of the KSB’s activities and its role in the cane poaching crisis and threatened to ensure that he was voted out of office at the next KSB Directors’ elections.


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