11 January 2014

Kenya: Cane Farmers Counting Losses

CANE farmers from Muhoroni and Nyando Sub-counties want Miwani weighbridge opened to address cases of farmer's exploitation by private millers. Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association Secretary General Richard Ogendo accused private millers for exploiting farmers in the county.

The farmers particularly took issue with Kibos and Allied Sugar Company for paying farmers Sh 3,400 instead of 3,500 per tonne. Ogendo said farmers have raised concern over the standards of the weighbridge that is used by Kibos Sugar Company. He said the company has rescaled the weighbridge downwards making farmers to lose 2 tonnes per every load of cane supplied.

Ogendo said the reduction has affecting farmers who also have to part with over Sh 5,000 to pay loaders for their canes to be transported to the mills. He accused Managing Director of Kibos Company Raju Singh of taking advantage of the local sugar mills which their operations are not currently efficient.

"As leaders we will not allow farmers rendered poor by millers who are out to mint money," he said. Ogendo said millers like Chemelil is paying farmers Sh 3,500 per tonne of canes delivered as required by the Kenya Sugar Board. He said it was unfair to impose such reduction on vulnerable farmers and urged farmers to stop delivering canes to Kibos.

The Union boss asked farmers to put their resources together ahead of the Comesa safeguards to buy shares ones liberalisation takes effects. He added that some of the farmers are now planning to move away from canes to grow other crops to avoid making huge losses. "Our mills are likely to face a major problem if the matter is not addressed quickly because farmers are getting demoralised," Ogendo said.

He said most of the cane growers depend fully from the income of the sugar produce for their livelihoods. Ogendo said farmers would not be able to prepare their farms in the next planting season unless the government address the problem.

He warned private millers to stop underpaying farmers if he wants to remain in the business. Ogendo said that low prices of canes have demoralised some farmers who are diverting to grow other crops. "We must encourage farmers to continue cane cultivation to ensure adequate supply," Ogendo said. The efforts to reach the Kibos MD for comment proof fruitile as his phone went unanswered.

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