PLANNING and Vision 2030 minister Wycliffe Oparanya has accused millers and sugar barons of "frustrating reforms in the sugar sector for selfish gains".
"We are aware of the fact that some members of Parliament have in the past been used to frustrate positive change in the sector but this will not stop us from pushing on," said Oparanya who is Butere MP. "We must change the way sugarcane farming is administered if we hope to develop counties whose economies rely on the crop ," he added.
Oparanya said cane farmers in Western province have been impoverished because administration of the sector has remained in the hands of the millers and barons. Speaking in Kakamega, Oparanya said millers negotiate with transporters without involving the farmer who pays for the transportation costs.
He said he visited Brazil recently to learn how the country succeeded in sugarcane farming, adding that he will transform the sector. "We want the industry to produce light boards, electricity, bottled water, molasses, and sugar as a by-product so that farmers have a wider variety from which to earn and better their lives," he said.
He said like Brazil, he will advocate for formation of vibrant co-operative societies by farmers which will help in the supervision of cane management. Oparanya said that a strong co-operative movement will pay farmers in intervals of three months as they wait for their harvests instead of the 24 months it takes the crop to mature.
He said despite there being four sugar manufacturing factories in the province, residents still wallow in poverty."Putting up more sugar factories is not the solution, we must analyse what they have to offer in terms of benefits to our people," Oparanya added. He said economic growth of counties in Western and Nyanza provinces will depend on cane farming and there is need for leaders from the region to push for transformation of the sugar sector.