The management of Mumias Sugar Company has initiated outreach programmes within its cane growing zones to persuade farmers back to cane farming.
Managing Director Nashon Aseka was on Saturday joined by two MPs from the Mumias cane growing zones to address farmers from Matungu on the importance of embarking on cane farming.
Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali and his Matungu counterpart Justus Murunga said they had reached out to other legislators from Mumias sugar zone and resolved to work together to win back farmers’ loyalty to the sugar firm.
Hundreds of farmers, five members of the Kakamega County Assembly who come from Matungu and chiefs and their assistants also attended the two meetings held on Saturday at Matungu grounds and Koyonzo in Matungu Constituency.
The farmers were given the opportunity to ask questions and give their views on how they want to relate with Mumias Sugar.
The politicians condemned the former managers – Coutts Otolo and Eroll Johnson – of wrongfully spending the Sh3.2 billion government bailout.
“Mr Aseka was only given Sh500 million and has been able to revive the factory, while Sh3.2 billion was given to former managers but [they] never made any successful progress,” said Mr Washiali.
Mr Murunga said the smallholder farmers are the livelihood of Mumias and asked the managing director to value them.
“These small people you see here hold the source of revenue of the factory. Work closely with them and you will get the raw material to steer forward the plant,” said Mr Murunga.
He said he had taken the lead in the Mumias Sugar outreach programmes because it was one of his campaign promises.
Mr Washiali urged the Kakamega County Government to fund cane development programmes.
He said the county government should provide tractors for ploughing cane fields and supply farmers with inputs.
Mr Washiali accused the Mumias management of protecting people who steal from the company.
“Why is it that with all the losses that the company has encountered through theft and fraud, no one has been arrested and charged in a court of law?” questioned Mr Washiali.
Mr Aseka said he had resolved to meet farmers and get more growers on board. He requested farmers to stand with him in the efforts to revitalise the factory.
“I am here today, to assure you that Mumias will not collapse. The factory is up and running,” said Mr Aseka.
He said Mumias was in a position to produce sugar, electricity, water and ethanol but it needs the raw material – sugar cane – to do this.
According to the MD, Mumias is able to make a Sh40 billion turnover with Sh10 billion profits annually.
He said the management was committed to paying farmers a week after they deliver their cane for crushing, but it is currently having financial constraints.
Mr Aseka said when he took over as the company’s managing director in June, farmers arrears stood at Sh900 million but it now stands at Sh600 million.
“I am projecting to clear all the outstanding farmers’ arrears before the end of next year and embark on paying farmers who give us their cane within a week,” Mr Aseka said.
The managing director said the miller was projecting to acquire 350 hectares of cane up from the current 100 to remain stable in its operations.
He also advised the farmers to buy Mumias Sugar Company shares so they can have a say in the running of the company.
“I know majority of you sold their share certificates when you were told it was the best business. But I challenge you to purchase shares from us so that you can own this factory,” he said.
Mr Aseka accused the former management of neglecting farmers and apologised for the inconveniences.
“I am surprised that people are amazed to meet the managing director of Mumias outside the office. I am sorry that you were ignored and mistreated by former managers and you decided to uproot cane from your farms. I am so sorry and I beg you to forgive us,” he said.
Mr Aseka said unscrupulous officers at the company had inflated charges for farmers.
He said some of the blunders that agitated farmers included locking them out from decision-making forums especially those organised to determine the charges to be deducted for services rendered by the company during cane development.
Farmers demanded a thorough shake-up of managers, accusing former managements of abetting corruption in the factory.
“We also want to be assured of 70 per cent of unskilled labour in the factory before we agree to give you our cane,” noted Dennis Okoyo from Namamali ward.
The farmers agreed to supply cane if Mumias keeps its promises, pays them on time and eliminates deductions from cane proceeds.