Radical reforms and overhaul must be carried out in the regulatory oversight of the sugar sector to forestall its total collapse
Written by West Fm
Read 940 Times
The prevailing confusion and anarchy in the Sugar Sector in Western Kenya and North Rift are clear testimony that the Kenya Sugar Board is as presently as legally constituted and staffed incapable of regulating and overseeing the orderly development in the Sugar Sector in this country.
The internecine wars raging in the Sugar Sector in Western Kenya between the sugar companies as to harvesting of sugarcane from out-growers farmers for crushing is only a tip of the iceberg and the culmination of the poor planning, development and dysfunctional regulatory framework in the sector over the years.
The truth be told, it is only Mumias Sugar Company Ltd and Nzoia Sugar Company Ltd that have painstakingly over the last 30 years developed and nurtured their sugar nucleus estates and out-growers farmers schemes that can guarantee them a steady supply of sugarcane for crushing throughout the year.
West Kenya Sugar Ltd has a relatively nascent out-growers scheme and Butali Sugar Company came in to put its plant right at West Kenya’s doorsteps despite West Kenya’s protracted legal battles to bar the establishment of Butali Sugar Company.
The scarcity of sugarcane out-growers farmers for the recently established sugarcane factories and jaggeries has now led to the incessant wars of alleged sugarcane poaching by the recent entrants in the sugar milling sector unto the out-growers schemes of Mumias and Nzoia. The Provincial Administration, the law enforcement agencies, all seem to have now become ensnared in the ongoing wars over sugarcane harvesting between those millers whose out-growers schemes are under threat and those who do not have or have schemes that are outrightly too small to service their huge crushing capacities that have been put in place in a short span of time without developing commensurate out-growers farmers schemes to supply the requisite key raw material of sugarcane.
West fm states that the demise of Pan African Paper Mills Ltd was to a great extent destined to come to pass as the Indian Birla family that was charged with its management never bothered to develop farmers out-growers scheme that could guarantee a continuous supply of trees and simultaneously economically empower the local farmers in that regard.
West fm states that it is critical that the elected leadership of Western Kenya and all other key stakeholders in the region especially the Counties where sugarcane is grown on a large scale to take seriously the imminent anarchy that is staring the Sugar Sector economy in the face now and that can easily lead to the collapse of that whole economy. Mumias and Nzoia Sugar Companies should be protected from the predatory and pirate activities of the new comers in the sector who wish to reap from the years of investment in sugarcane development undertaken by the pioneer sugar factories. Mumias and Nzoia Sugar Companies pay substantial levies to the local authorities in the areas where they have developed out-growers farmers schemes and those local authorities should protect the goose that lays the golden egg.
The incompetencies and weak regulatory framework that underpin and are synonymous with the Kenya Sugar Board are the root cause of the now looming anarchy in the Sugar Sector and it is thus urgent that the leadership of Western Kenya which is the largest producer of sugar in Kenya lobby for radical reforms in the regulatory legal framework that can efficiently, prudently, competently regulate the Sugar Sector and provide appropriate oversight for its orderly development.
West fm states that time is ripe for the legislation of a Sugar Regulatory Authority that can like the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Communications Commission of Kenya provide visionary oversight over the management and development of the Sugar Sector.
West fm roots by all means for fair and robust competition in the sugar sector in Western Kenya as that would guarantee farmers, the most important component of the Sugar Sector, optimum price returns on their crops but the competition among millers must be appropriately regulated and superintended so that some millers do not just come to dangle high prices to contracted farmers because they have not invested in the development of the out-growers schemes and also because they are not paying any levies and/or maintaining roads in the areas where they are poaching cane from.
The sugar economy is too pervasive and touches thousands of residents of Western Kenya for the region to allow its collapse through anarchical practices by some players. And as West Fm has always proclaimed the headquarters of Kenya Sugar Board or its proposed successor the Sugar Regulatory Authority must be in Western Province, the largest producer of sugarcane in the country as that is the whole essence of equity in the allocation of national resources enshrined in the Constitution.[Read:The Kenya Sugar Board headquarters must be relocated to Western Province from Nairobi where 80% of its locally generated revenue is collected westfm.co.ke/mobile/index.php]
The people of Western Province must stand up and fight for the proper, efficient, transparent, accountable regulation, management and oversight of the Sugar Sector now so that their returns from that sector can deliver to them transformative socio-economic changes that will lift them from fringes of poverty into middle income prosperous farmers. The over 12 billion shillings collected by the Kenya Sugar Board as annual levies must substantially be reinvested the Western Kenya, the largest source of those funds rather than as now remain a theatre for corruption in far off Nairobi which produces no sugar. The sugar economy must be reclaimed by those who form its backbone, the sugarcane farmers of Western Kenya now and not tomorrow.
WEST FM EDITORIAL©2012