Nzoia Sugar Company in Bungoma County is grinding to a halt due to lack lack of raw materials.
The firm’s Acting Managing Director Michael Kulundu says the main cause of cane shortage is poaching and the recent drought.
He blamed the miller’s woes on rival, neighbouring sugar factories in Kakamega County, which he said were illegally harvesting cane from farmers contracted by Nzoia.
“They (neighbouring factories) are the main problem. They have put us into this situation. They have been harvesting our contracted cane and taking them to their factories for crushing,” he told reporters at the Nzoia Guest House Hall.
He said they had harvested all their cane at the factory nucleus and are now forced to go as far as Naitiri, Teso and Busia to get the raw material.
“We are struggling, we don’t have mature cane, all the cane we developed was poached by our neighbouring firms or dried due to the recent drought that hit the country,” he said.
“The neighbouring farmers requested us to crush their cane then we pay them weekly on their terms.”
Some farmers contracted by the company recently raised concerns over delayed payments after delivering their cane to the factory.
Mr Kulundu denied the claims and on Tuesday, he said they were processing Sh185 million payments for cane delivered in January and February
“Farmers running around maligning the company’s name that we haven’t paid them since January 2016 should stop such malicious propaganda,” he said.
“We have paid up to December 2016 and we are working on modalities of starting paying for the January and February arrears, let them be patient.”
He added: “With the availability of cane, we want to reduce the payment period to two weeks from the current one month.”
SH4,200 A TONNE
Currently, Nzoia pays its farmers Sh4,200 per tonne of delivered cane.
The firm’s workers union secretary Macdonald Wamocho said they would not accept poachers to continue stealing cane from their contracted farmers.
“We are struggling and we’re on the brink of collapse because of such factories. You can’t set up a factory without the raw materials,” he said.
“The poaching menace has led to the killing of two of our employees in the Anti-poaching Department by our rivals, let them be put on notice that we can’t lose our cane and at the same time lose our employees.”
The unionist said he would not allow Nzoia sugar employees to lose their jobs because of the selfish interests of their neighbouring firms.
Nzoia Sugar is the only processing factory in the county as various stakeholders work on reviving the Rai Paper formerly Pan Paper factory in Webuye that collapsed in 1999.
Kitinda Dairy factory in Bungoma town also went under due to mismanagement.
Efforts to revive it have hit a snag.