PLANNING and Vision 2030 minister Wycliffe Oparanya has told sugar millers to review their contracts with farmers to ensure they benefit from new products as the firms diversify products to remain afloat in a liberalised market. "Although the Ethanol Act has not yet been passed by Parliament, millers should rewrite their contract with farmer to ensure the farmers benefit fully from the production and sale of ethanol and electricity because the two products are by-products of sugar cane," said the minister. "Though the current Act does not provide for payment to farmers for the new products, we want millers to begin preparing by reviewing their contracts as we wait for new laws to be in place. This will make sugarcane farming more profitable to farmers and help fight poverty," he said.
He said it was unfair that while sugar millers are diversifying into co-generation projects, payments to farmers is still pegged on sugar alone and earning nothing from the sale of electricity, ethanol and bottled water. "The government will continue to support sugar processing companies to increase operational efficiency through research and development of new high yielding varieties, research in diversifies sugar industry products, encourage fair competition and periodic review of relevant policies and regulations to discourage dumping from regional markets," said Oparanya.
The minister was speaking on Friday when officially opening the Western Region ASK Show in Kakamega. Oparanya said farmers in Western Kenya supplied 3.56 million tons of sugarcane valued at Sh12.4 billion to millers last year. "The Sugar Bill is still going through the consultative levels by players in the industry before being enacted into law that will streamline the operations of the industry. Only on amendment requiring that farmers can now engage transporters of their choice to deliver cane to millers was passed through the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill last week but the first will come through the Sugar Act," he said.
The minister said poverty in Western region remains high because cane farmers are not adequately benefiting from farming activities. "This is why we are asking the government to allocate more money to regions with high poverty index to try and stabilise their economies," he said. Oparanya said fish farming had pickd up after its introduction three tears ago. He said the harvest from 7, 200 fish ponds and 60 water seservours and dams under the Economic Stimulus prigramme in the region had surpassed the catch rom inland waters. "The catch from the ponds totaled 1.2 million Kilogrammes valued at Sh240 million while the catch from Lake Voctoria was 384 tons valued at Sh260 million," sad the minister.