After a public outcry by the farmers over bribery claims to
acquire a permit for harvesting canes, the workers’ union has come out to
defend the supervisors over the allegations terming it as malicious.
The Kenya Union of sugar plantation and allied workers’ union
(KUSPAWU), a body formed to advocate for the rights of agricultural extension,
field assistants and field officers has instead blamed the farmers for being
the ones to blame for bribing the officials to get quick services despite
delayed permitting being an issue that is being handled by the factory and the
union at large.
The (KUSPAWU) branch secretary Jeremiah Akhonya attributes
the delay to too many ready canes to be harvested beyond the crushing capacity
of the millers.
“We are aware of the situation and we are doing all we can to
normalize everything because there is too much raw material to be crushed and
that is due to unexpected long rains throughout last year hence all the canes
grew very fast,” said Akhoya.
The Branch secretary added that the miller’s idea to expand
their canes catchment areas was also to blame for the delayed permits crisis
singling West Kenya which has erected a weighbridge in Chemilil, Misikhu,
Magut, Busia, and on the border of Kisumu and Kericho counties that collects
canes before being transported to the factory.
“This means that we have expanded the catchment area of the
factory in terms of raw materials but we have not expanded our crushing
capacity to meet the supply hence we are not able to mill as fast as we harvest
and that is what is causing delays,” he added.
Although Butali sugar has done some expansion on its mills
but is yet to do much on the process house and hence it cannot crush more than
what the processor house can handle the syrup.
On the other hand, West Kenya has done some expansion that
has seen now two mills crushing more than 6,000 tons per day but the processor
house limits the crushing capacity respectively.
He further noted, “The hindrances being experienced are due
to the low crushing capacity and this has led to the factories limiting the number
of raw materials coming in. So the issue of field assistants delaying permits
is not their making but it is regulated and dictated by the crushing capacity
of the factories.”
At West Kenya, the company has expanded its transport sector
by bringing in new fleets (over100) tractors out of which 30 were taken to
Misikhu, with Magut also receiving the same number to improve in transporting
canes faster to the factory.
Another reason for delayed permitting is after West Kenya
acquired huge chunks of cane lands in Chemilil, Dominion farm in Siaya, Trans
Nzoia (Noah Wekesa farm) that once harvesting begins it will run for the
factory for two months nonstop.
The union urged the country’s leadership to push West Kenya
into putting up another factory unit in Dominion farm Siaya to service the
farmers within that vicinity as it was their idea when they purchased the land.
“We are also still pushing for the Naitiri factory to start
its operations as soon as possible as it will give farmers some reprieve in
acquiring permits but the most important one is the Dominion one which is over
15,000 hectares where the management had suggested to set up a factory and now
the canes from those lands they purchased have matured and need to be
Sugar cane harvesting. Image|Courtesy
However, he warned of a major showdown between the farmers
and the millers if the two factories are not established and operational to
ease congestion being experienced as the millers continue to harvest outside
As Kakamega cane farmers continue to suffer at the expense of
the expanded catchment area of farmers’ canes, the union is seeking to meet
Senator Cleophas Malala over the issue so that they can sit and deliberate.
The union official further pointed out the need to liberalize
the industry to allow new players to come in after the exit of Mumias which was
a major crushing company as its canes from Mumias, Bunyala, Navakholo all end
up in West Kenya factory overwhelming its crushing capacity.
Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya has been urged to
continue pushing for the revival of Mumias sugar as it will play a big role in
salvaging the stalemate being witnessed by the millers.
The union took a swipe at the management of West Kenya for
losing touch with their farmers accusing them of failing to meet and address
the issue on the ground amicably.
“Since West Kenya realized there were more canes to harvest,
it has withdrawn all the farmer incentives it used to offer and instead
resolved to mistreat them at an equal measure and this is where they are going
wrong as many of these farmers will decide to uproot the crop and invest in
alternative cash crops hence disable the industry, and there is a time when the
miller will need the farmers unlike now when the factory cannot give them
advance loans to pay school fees among other emergency needs,” said the Union
The bigger predicament the farmers are engulfed in is, not
knowing where the miller is harvesting canes as both local and outside farmers
continue to complain bitterly.
Akhonya noted that the two companies were not serving farmers
to their satisfaction due to lack of farmers’ associations west Kenya Sugar
Company limited (Wekscol) and Butali out growers’ farmers’ association which
were scrapped un ceremonially through the dubious hidden hands of the millers.
“The farmer’s associations were key in advocating for a level
playing ground between the farmers and the miller but now that they are no
more, it is upon the local leadership starting with the Mp and Mca’s who are
within the sugar belt to push for the rights of the farmers but they seem to
run away from facts on the ground,”
The official pushed that the leaders should take charge
immediately failure to which they will engage a third investor who will adhere
to the demands of the farmer through relevant farmers and workers’ unions.
Also, let farmers scrutinize each deduction the miller makes
on their payment statement to know exactly what was deducted and for what
purpose as many of them fail to pick their payslips statements after receiving
their bank statements via SMS on their phones.