Kenya: Economic Bloc Not Opposed to Leasing of Sugar Factories, Nyong'o Says

Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o has clarified the Lake Region Economic Bloc's position on the leasing of five State-owned sugar millers, saying it is not opposed to the process.

Farmers want the process to go on as planned by the State and are afraid that the governors' position could derail the process.

Prof Nyong'o noted that the 14 counties in LREB insist on consultations on the process to ensure due diligence and accountability.

A week ago, governors from the sugar growing zone resolved to have a committee of national and county governments oversee the leasing process and ensure its legitimacy.

Five governors from the LREB region met Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to discuss the matter.

Among their requests was adding representatives from sugar growing regions in the evaluation team that will select investors to take over factories.

LEVEL FIELD

While noting the need for a level playing field for all, Governor Nyong'o said, "We are interested in seeing that the leasing process and other reforms are implemented with speed."

Prof Nyong'o further noted that Western Kenya governors are pioneers of ongoing reforms in the sugar industry and will ensure the taskforce report is implemented for the good of the sector.

"We have burnt our midnight oil deliberating on the best way to resuscitate the industry. We have met farmers and key stakeholders as we seek ways to save the industry," he said.

The governor, while accusing some individuals of spreading malicious propaganda to hinder implementation of the taskforce report, called on farmers to be cautious so they are not deceived.

APPEAL

Stephen ole Narupa, National Treasurer of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (KNFSF), called on LREB's leaders to consider the views of people outside the bloc.

Mr Narupa said the interests of cane farmers and workers from Transmara and coastal regions, which are not part of the regional bloc, should also be considered.

"It is unfortunate that we have a lot of canethat cannot be harvested due to lack of capacity by the operational mills. It is only through leasing that we can salvage the situation," he said.

The Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Organisation (KNASFO) has accused LREB leaders of attempting to antagonise the government to slow the leasing.

"Our concern is that when together, they speak the same thing and sugarcane farmers are very happy, but when the politicians speak to farmers, they convey contradictory messages," said Mr Atyang Atiang'.

He noted that thousands of sugarcane farmers and workers continue to bear the brunt when factories are closed.

SO FAR

The government in July kicked off the process of revitalising five State-owned sugar factories to increase competitiveness and improve the quality.

According to an advertisement on Friday, by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), successful bidders will be unveiled on August 4.

The government is looking for investors with world-class experience to redevelop the factories into complexes and manage them over a period of 25 years.

The financiers are expected to lease, redevelop and operate the complexes at sufficient processing capacities to support diversification into cogeneration of export power and production of bioethanol and allied coproducts.

The targeted mills include Chemelil, Miwani (in receivership), Muhoroni (in receivership), Nzoia and South Nyanza.

They have accused governors of political interference and sabotaging the process even before it starts for selfish interests.

They have asked the government to ignore the county chiefs and politicians opposed to the process and proceed with the leasing.

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