Sugarcane farmers will be smiling all the way to the bank this week after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said his ministry had received Sh2.7 billion from the National Treasury to pay them.
Mr Kiunjuri urged cane farmers to be patient even as the ministry and stakeholders in the sugarcane sub-sector look for a lasting solution to the perennial problems facing the industry.
Speaking Monday in Nairobi after a meeting with ODM party leader Raila Odinga, Mr Kiunjuri said the persistent problems facing the sugarcane industry will become a thing of the past.
The CS said the government and other players are working to privatise sugar companies that are struggling financially in the competitive market.
“For 20 years, we have been facing challenges on how to pay our farmers,” Mr Kiunjuri said. “This is set to change as our farmers will be smiling all the way to the bank.”
Mr Odinga said the government for a long time has been pumping billions into the sugarcane industry but the problem of delayed payments to farmers has persisted.
He said private investors will come on board and inject more money and new machines, especially to State-owned sugar companies such as Chemelil, Miwani, Muhoroni, Nzoia and Sony Sugar that are on their deathbed.
The final details of the privatisation, Mr Odinga said, will be discussed on Monday next week in Kisumu during a major cane stakeholders’ meeting.
“There is a need for a permanent solution and the Monday meeting will address all the issues,” the ODM leader said.
Mr Odinga said the injection of private capital in the firms will help rehabilitate and modernise the millers for competitive and sustainable production.
Mr Odinga was accompanied by former Funyula MP Paul Otuoma, who was recently appointed chairman of the Privatisation Commission, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, Seme MP James Nyikal and Ministry of Agriculture officials.
Mr Odinga regretted that the sugar industry had been brought down to its knees by corruption and mismanagement.
On the task force formed by President Kenyatta last year to address the plight of cane farmers, Mr Kiunjuri said it would finalise its sitting after all farmers have been paid.
“We realised that we cannot talk to farmers who have not been paid. We will conclude their payment then have our final sitting and come up with the report to hand over to President Kenyatta,” the CS said.
The task force was to review the policy of the sugar industry, check on the emerging challenges facing the industry, do research and review sugar imports.