Cane farmers appose lifting of ban on sugar importation
Sugarcane farmers and millers from Busia County have opposed the calls by Kenya Sugar Manufacturers Association (KESMA) to have the ban on sugar importation lifted.
The farmers and millers from the region claimed the move was a well orchestrated plan to kill local sugarcane production in the region.
According to them, such a decision would only benefit sugar cartels that have been trying to smuggle cheap sugar and cane from neighboring Uganda at the expense of Kenyan farmers who have toiled and secured loans for cane development.
Additionally, the farmers and millers also dismissed claims by Busia Sugar Industry that it has invested in cane estates in neighboring Uganda and wondered why it wants to import cane from Uganda yet it had strongly supported zoning.
They questioned the awarding of business licensing and permit to the Busia Sugar Industry yet it has not invested in local cane development.
Currently, cane from Uganda is retailing at Sh 2000 per tonnage compared to Kenya’s Sh 3700.
The famers and millers including the General Manager of West Kenya’s Olepito Sugar Factory based in Busia County Gerald Okoth, Amakuara central Ward Representative Moses Ouma and George Okwara, told the government to investigate operational licenses of companies that don’t have cane.
According to them, at the moment there is a huge glut of sugarcane in Uganda and allowing sugar importation will see farmers dumping their cane in Kenya thus lowering the local prices at the expense of local cane producers.
“One Tonne is Sh2000 bob in Uganda. If you allow me to import, obviously I’ll take from Uganda thereby killing local production since local tonnage is 3700,” said Okoth.
Their sentiments came after KSMA Chairman Jayant Pate called for the lifting of the ban on sugar cane importation.
Patel is reportedly said to have written a letter to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, requesting him to lift the ban on cane importation in favour of Busia Sugar Industry, which claims to have experienced acute shortage in cane production.
But yesterday, Okoth, Ouma and Okwara told Munya not to lift the ban as farmers will lose their hard earned money.
In particular Okoth accused KESMA of working with cartels and that is why it was calling for the lifting of the ban yet it is aware that there is no shortage of sugarcane in the country.
He criticized Patel’s sentiments saying that none of the Members of the Association were not consulted he is aware that they do not support the lifting of the importation ban on cane.
While terming it ironical for Busia Sugar Company which was among those fighting for Zoning to call or the lifting of the ban in order to import sugar from Uganda, Okoth was categorical that only in a situation such as drought or famine can Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) can allow for importation.
“There’s a lot of cane in the country being developed by local farmers and therefore we do not need to import any sugar.I support CS Munya banning of both Cane & Sugar,” he said.
Okwara who echoed the sentiments of Okoth disputed the fact that there was Sugarcane shortage in the region saying it is evident that Busia Sugar Industry didn’t develop cane production since it was heavily importing the commodity from Uganda thereby not supporting local farmers at all.
Ouma on the other hand also sought to know why Busia Sugar Industries and Butali Sugar Chairman Jayant Patel, who’s also the Chaiman of KESMA chairperson was supporting the importation of cane from Uganda while they were strong opposers of removal of cane Zoning.
He said: “if we get the sugar cane from Uganda all production costs will benefit Uganda even ploughing and transportation cost. So it will be Uganda benefiting not Kenya farmers."