Sugar milling company bets on irrigation to boost yield

Stung by a shortage of raw materials, Nzoia Sugar Company is investing Sh11 million in furrow irrigation to boost sugarcane production.

The miller’s acting managing director, Mr Michael Kulundu, said the move was necessitated by a decline in raw materials over the past two years due to drought and poaching.

“Irrigation will guarantee the quality of raw materials, as well as availability of essential seeds for planting,” he said in statement.

The company has lately grappled with acute shortage of seed cane but hopes the new measures will improve production and sugar volumes.

The firm is milling less than 2,000 tonnes of cane a day against an installed capacity of 3,000 tonnes, according to the management.

READ: Nzoia Sugar on the brink of collapse

Nzoia Sugar is also spending Sh177 million on 3,000 hectares in its out-grower and nucleus farms to increase cane production and monitor contracted farmers from planting to harvesting time.

The pilot irrigation project is spearheaded by the Sugar Directorate.

Mr Kulundu said irrigation can increase the crop establishment by 50 per cent, resulting in improved yields at lower costs.
“But lack of moisture and other necessary requirements may interfere with germination, leading to stunted growth and poor performance of the crop. With irrigation, you are guaranteed of quality cane supply,” he said.

Furrow irrigation is not the best, compared to other methods, but the company says it is easier to adopt due to availability of water from the factory.

The country is currently grappling with sugar deficit following an acute shortage of cane. Most sugar millers are crushing below capacity.

A recent report by the Sugar Directorate indicates that there will be a shortage of 1.9 million tonnes of the sweetener in 2016/2017 fiscal year.

“This project will be a shift from the past where we relied fully on rainfall for cane husbandry,” said Mr Francis Oringe, Nzoia Sugar agronomy manager.

Last week, the company disbursed Sh64 million to its cane farmers, with an additional Sh18 million expected to be released this week to off-set pending dues.

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