Written by John Kabaka
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Butali Sugar Company in Kakamega County one of the four cane factories serving cane farmers. [PHOTO | West Fm I File]
Planning and Vision 2030 Minister Wycliffe Oparanya says he would spearhead efforts aimed at development of the sugar sector in the country in spite of uncompromising challenge from sugar millers and unscrupulous dealers in the industry.
He said that despite Western province having four sugar factories, residents in the region still wallow in abject poverty adding the establishment of sugar factories was not a solution to the myriad economic problems facing the farmers.
He said for counties in Western and Nyanza provinces, which produce 90 percent of the country's sugar to realize full potential from the economic activity leaders from the area must push for the transformation of the sugar sector.
Oparanya said the current spectacle in the sugar sector was dear because members of parliament had been compromised by millers to stifle debate on reforms that would remove obstacles and enhance the administration of the sector.
He noted, “We are aware of the fact that some members have been used in the past to frustrate positive change in the sector but this will not stop us from pushing on....we must change the way sugar cane farming is administered if we hope to develop counties whose economies will be determined by sugar cane growing as the main cash crop,”
Oparanya who seeks to become the first governor of Kakamega County said that cane farming has impoverished the people in the county mainly because of lack of proper policies and failure to enforce the legislation.
He said letting the administration in the hands of the millers and sugar barons meant that 70 percent of farmers who depend entirely on returns from sugarcane yields live below the poverty line. He cited the current system where transport cost is determined without the involvement of the farmer who meets the transport cost.
He also observed that cane business was the only crop sold off without the farmer witnessing the weighing process. “I was in Brazil recently to learn how the country succeeded in sugar cane farming but I can tell you that the practice of farming there is very different to ours.”
“We want the industry to produce light boards, electricity, bottled water, molasses, and sugar as a bye product so that farmers have a wider variety from which to earn and better their lives,” he said.
Oparanya also vouched for the formation of strong co-operative movement for cane farmers to save them the long waits before harvests.
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