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Sugar farmers, Busia miller reach deal

Friday July 17 2020
sugar

A farmer harvesting sugarcane. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BENSON AMADALA  

Sugar farmers in Busia County have agreed to end their protests against a miller over poor services, affecting harvesting and transportation of cane to a sugar factory.

Farmers had accused the management of Busia Sugar Company of abandoning them and crossing into neighbouring Uganda to source for raw material while their cane was left to rot in the fields.

The cane growers who were represented by officials of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF), Busia branch led by the national chairman Mr Ibrahim Juma met management officials of the sugar factory and agreed to chart the way forward.

The management team from Busia Sugar Company was led by the administration manager Mr Mohammed Ali.

The miller had defended the decision to cross to Uganda for raw material saying the available cane in Busia could not match its crushing capacity of between 1,500 - 4,500 tonnes per day.

Players in the industry said sugar millers were scrambling for raw material from farms in Uganda which was cheaper compared to the raw material sourced locally at the lowest price of Sh3,500 per tonne.

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The latest deal between the miller and the federation comes after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya issued a directive stopping sugar millers from sourcing raw material from Uganda to protect local farmers from incurring losses.

Trucks transporting the cane to sugar factories in western region have been blocked from crossing the border for the past week.

Traders who had hired the trucks to ferry the cane asked Mr Munya to allow them to deliver the raw material to avoid making losses.

A trader Mr Job Omondi said the move by the government to stop millers from buying raw material from farmers across the border would hurt their investments.

“We have invested heavily in the business and if the harvested cane id left to rot on the lorries, this will sink our money and leave us in debts,” said Mr Omondi.

Mr Juma said cane farmers in the region had made loses after the miller started sourcing raw material directly from Uganda.

“Our farmers have made loses after their harvested cane is left to rot in the fields because of the delay to transportation been abandoned by the sugar millers who were keen to source raw material from elsewhere while mature cane was going to waste in the fields,” said Mr Juma.

The miller agreed to give priority to harvesting of cane from farmers in the region before seeking additional raw material from alternative sources.

“We have no problem with miller sourcing raw material from Uganda as along as mature cane available in the farms in Busia is harvested and delivered to the factory for milling without delay,” said Mr Juma.

The federation said the miller had agreed to ensure farmers are paid within a week after delivering their cane to the factory.

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