Farmers dismiss Uhuru bailout plan for ailing sugar firms

Sugarcane farmers have dismissed as inadequate President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bailout plan for millers in western Kenya, saying the package will not cover even debts owed to them.

The Kenya Sugarcane Plantation Workers Union (KSPWU) and Kenya Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KFSF) officials said a number of millers still face closure despite recent financial intervention.

“Debts owed to the farmers by the factories need to be addressed for them to get cane,” said KSPWU secretary-general Francis Wangara. “We expected the government to release the money as soon as possible for the companies to offset the debts.”

When he visited Kakamega on a vote-hunting mission a few weeks ago, Mr Kenyatta said the State had already pumped Sh3.1 billion into Mumias Sugar #ticker:MSC. He promised an additional Sh500 million to help turn around the miller.

During their recent visit to Bungoma, Mr Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, also promised to give Sh300 million each to Nzoia Sugar and Chemelil Sugar.

READ: Mumias Sugar needs over Sh5bn to stay afloat

The cane farmers dismissed the package as pittance and accused the President of playing politics with their livelihoods. The officials said Mumias has not paid its staff and contractors for four months.

“Mumias Sugar is a tall order. It requires close to Sh5 billion to be back to its normal operations,” said Mr Wangara.

“Nzoia, on the other hand, needs over Sh700 million. The Sh300 million promised is just a drop in the ocean.”

KFSF deputy secretary general Simon Wesechere said the delay in the release of the money pledged by the government was also affecting the millers.

“The millers require more funding to facilitate their turnaround plans, clear farmers’ arrears and streamline operations,” he said.

The officials said the only solution to the problems facing the millers was for the State to invest in cane development, stop licensing of more sugar processors and pay farmers on time.

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