Why sugar farmers must embrace proposed privatisation or zoning - Daily Nation

Why sugar farmers must embrace proposed privatisation or zoning

Wednesday September 5 2018

Recent reports say Kenyans have been consuming imported expired sugar laced with toxins.

I think the revelations were a result of corruption deals gone awry. Local millers are complicit because they also imported sugar from same sources.

The ‘Sugar Mafia’ in Kenya, working in cahoots with their accomplices abroad, created a sugar shortage in the country before importing the poison. That is how poisonous sugar and other products normally enter Kenya.

Zoning of sugarcane-growing zones is the latest attempt by the State at bringing sanity in the sugar industry as a bid to privatise mills seemed to reach a dead end after more than 20 years of trying. Apparently, cane farmers and their counties are opposed to both proposals.

I have attended many meetings in my different capacities to address the mess in the sugar sub-sector. They always end up in intoxicated mobs chasing one another with pangas.

DEEPENED CRISIS

The hullabaloo by the Johnny-come-lately counties to be granted authority to take over sugar factories in their respective regions has deepened the crisis. Counties that are dens of corruption and depend on the national government to function do not have the wherewithal to manage the run-down factories.

To be honest, which sugar belt county can acquire the factories as they are, build multibillion-shilling sugar factories if need be, grow their own cane, pay out-grower farmers, service their loans, pay staff remunerations, remit statutory deductions et al and break even? They cannot even run food kiosks sitting on their leaking sewer lines — leave alone repairing the leakages.

Cane farmers and their counties cannot eat their sweat cakes and have them. They must embrace either privatisation or zoning or continue languishing in endless self-inflicted poverty. Let sleeping cane farmers sleep on their laurels because, for their Asian counterparts, it is business as usual. I hope they wake up.

PRIVATISATION

The farmers and their political representatives must be shamed, ashamed whipped and de-whipped on the benefits, demerits and merits of privatisation and zoning. Privatisation does not mean the local and/or foreign investors will run away with the so-called ancestral lands, the biggest contention. Neither will they ship in thousands of illegal coolies to take over local jobs.

Again, the State has offered itself a paltry 21 per cent, leaving 24 per cent for farmer groups and 51 per cent to the private investor in the privatised industry.

No investor will accept to be a minority shareholder as cane farmers and counties demand, yet they will invest the billions of shillings such as is required to revive a factory like Miwani.

The State, or its officers, does not miss sleep, go hungry, lack medication, fail to pay school fees or sleep in grass-thatched houses with cow dung walls.

S.R. ATHEMBO ONYURO, Kisumu.