The government’s ban on sugar imports has rekindled hope for the sector’s revival, with Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o thanking Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya for ending the illegal trade.
Governor Nyong’o noted on Friday that farmers can now return to growing the crop.
“The Western Kenya sugar belt will now have an opportunity to achieve its full potential as the move will benefit farmers, workers and transporters among other critical stakeholders,” he said at a press conference at the county headquarters.
He also lauded the government initiative to lease State-owned sugar mills, saying the move will help increase farmers’ incomes and improve competitiveness and services in the sector.
While announcing the sector reforms at Kilimo House on Thursday, CS Munya said the Cabinet has approved the leasing of Muhoroni, Chemelil, Nzoia, Miwani and Sony Sugar Company for 20 years to process and develop cane on farms owned by the millers.
Mr Munya said the ministry will next week invite bids from private firms for the leasing of five State-owned factories.
The cancellation of import licences has also received the support of farmers who had been frustrated by the dumping of cheap imports, which led to heavy losses for the last six months.
“Sugarcane farmers have been suffering as a result of sugar import surges exacerbated by the Covid-19-triggered economic depression,” said Mr Michael Arum, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Organisation (KNASFO).
He called on the government to reinstate the sugar development levy, and pump funds into cane development.
“This will enable the country to meet its local demand and export the surplus to neighbouring countries,” he said during a press conference in Awasi, Kisumu.
Mr Andrew Bett, a farmer from Kericho County, said the money should be channeled through farmers’ cooperatives.
“This is the only viable way to sustain the local demand after the stoppage of importation,” he said.
Mr Moses Sidigu from Awasi said the price of sugarcane should now be increased. He accused millers of arbitrarily reducing the price from Sh4,100 per tonne last year to Sh3,500.
“The government should also consider reducing the cost of farm inputs such as fertilisers to reduce the cost of production and help stabilise the cost of sugar,” he said.
Stephen ole Narupa, National Treasurer of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, asked the government to seal porous border points to ensure no sugar is illegally imported.
Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) Secretary-General Richard Ogendo asked leaders in cane growing regions to support the government for the benefit of the more than 350,000 farmers and other beneficiaries.
Mr Munya, while suspending import licences, said the ministry noted an influx of illegal imports, especially through the Busia border, as unscrupulous traders took advantage of curfew hours.