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Cane farmers reject plan to merge three ailing factories

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By VICTOR RABALLA
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Cane farmers from Nyando sugar-belt have vowed to scuttle proposals to merge three public millers in the region, saying the initiative could worsen their plight.

They said it makes no sense to lump three sick people on a single bed when it is hard to treat them separately.

Just like the giant Mumias Sugar Company, the growers drawn from the region said amalgamating Chemelil, Muhoroni and Miwani will complicate management of the entity and expose it to abuse.

Kenya Sugar cane Growers Association (Kesga) secretary-general Richard Ogendo warned against adopting the model saying it would kill the entire industry.

“Drawing from the experience of Mumias, we have no confidence that coming up with a single entity will work for us when the same has failed and threatens to bring down the entire industry in western Kenya region,” he said.

Closing down of Mumias which accounted for up to 60 per cent of all sugar in the country has negatively affected over 100,000 sugar cane farmers who relied on miller, he pointed out.

Mumias Sugar Company at its peak produced over 10,000 tonnes of sugar per day against 1,800 tonnes for Muhoroni, 2,500 tonnes for Chemelil and 1,600 tonnes per day for the neighbouring Miwani.

Kenya National Federation of Sugar cane Farmers National Treasurer Stephen Narupa said running the firms independently has a lot of potential as opposed to lumping them together.

He said the trio is facing unique challenges, which would be difficult to handle when brought together.

“It is unfair for the government to consider merging the three major companies in Nyando sugar-belt without involving the farmers who are the key stakeholders,” he said during a press conference at Sunset Hotel in Kisumu.

Mr Narupa said farmers should be involved before making critical decisions as over 80 per cent of cane delivered to factories comes from outgrowers.

“The industry is largely made up of small-scale farmers who work hard to ensure that the firms run by providing the key raw materials for the production of the sweetener,” he said.

The chairman of Kenya Association of Sugar cane Farmers and Allied Products Atyang’ Atiang’ on his part accused those pushing for the merger of attempting to cover up past financial misappropriations, which have contributed to bringing the companies to their knees.

“It is suspicious that individuals who are pushing for the merger have been paid millions of shillings in questionable activities which calls for a thorough probe by the Director of Public Prosecution,” he said.

“What is the logic of putting three sick people on one bed when you cannot deal with them separately? We are going to resist any move by unscrupulous individuals who are acting on their selfish needs to impoverish farmers,” he said.

The proposal to bring together the companies was fronted to President Uhuru Kenyatta by local leaders who presented a memorandum to the Head of State when he visited Kisumu last month in a bid for the millers to operate as a single and profitable entity.

It is reported that President Kenyatta expressed concerns that the three factories have gobbled up Sh30 billion in government bailout plans.

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