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Cane wars loom as firms resume milling

Tuesday October 16 2018

A tractor in Kabras sugarcane zone in Kakamega

A tractor in Kabras sugarcane zone in Kakamega. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Two State-owned sugar millers in Kisumu County have bounced back to operations, setting the stage for raw material wars as cane shortage bites.

Both Muhoroni Sugar Company and the neighbouring Chemelil Sugar will be struggling to attract cane from farmers owed hundreds of millions of shillings since they ceased operations early in the year.

The sugar millers also owe millions of shillings to employees who went for months without pay even before they halted milling.

Muhoroni Sugar which is seeking a Sh600 million bailout from the government had to replace its receiver managers, Mr Fredrick Kebeney and Mr Asa Okoth in June before farmers could agree to start supplying cane. Farmers had accused the two of mismanaging factory proceeds.

The firm has appointed Mr Francis Ooko and Mr Harun Kirui who now run Muhoroni and Miwani Sugar companies.

A section of the farmers who are owed some Sh400 million have however insisted on the removal of key officials, including the general manager and the marketing manager who they say should be held accountable for running down the miller which is operating at nearly half its capacity. Chemelil, which resumed operations in late August, has been running intermittently since then due to constrained cane supply.

The two millers signal a lifeline for residents who say a government bailout would be a godsend.

“Just like the government has been bailing out Mumias, we would be happy to see these mills brought back to full operations. It has been tough for most people especially farmers and employees whose arrears have not been paid,” Mr Charles Anyumba, a secretary to the farmers ‘union said yesterday.

Muhoroni has however began paying farmers weekly for fresh deliveries.