Kenya: Cane Farmers in Central Urge State to Give Them Incentives

Sugarcane farmers in central region now want the government to treat them in the same manner as the nationally acclaimed growers in western and Nyanza regions.

They say the industry is worth Sh3.5 billion in the region and that they can improve their income to a gross of more than Sh20 billion by way of making molasses, wines and juices in value addition ventures.

"This can only happen if we are looped into the policies of input subsidies, credit and value addition plants. If the industrialisation goal of the Big Four agenda was to factor us in as sugarcane growers, we will not disappoint," said the Central Cane Farmers Association Secretary-General David Mwangi.

Mr Mwangi, who also has a sugarcane plantation in Kirinyaga County, told the Nation at his farm that between 2017 and 2020, there were 8,850 registered members drawn from Murang'a, Kirinyaga, Embu, Nyeri, Kiambu and Nyandarua counties.

He said that the sector employs at least 10, 000 people who broker, wholesale and retail cane in local market centres.

Not structured

"All of us in reconciled returns indicate that we are worth Sh3.5 billion in combined market return and the credit worthiness that our occupation qualifies us to access. We are not structured since we are yet to be recognised as a fully-fledged sector in central Kenya," Mr Mwangi said.

He said if supported, many farmers in central Kenya can grow sugarcane in large volumes as opposed to the current situation where many practice small scale production.

Nationally, Muhoroni, Homa Bay, Chemelil, Miwani, Sony, Mumias, Nzoia, Tana River and Busia are categorised as the cane basket.

Mr Mwangi told the Nation that they have discovered that away from the traditional cane varieties that took up to two years to mature, technologically modified breeds are taking even as few as four months to be ready.

Value addition

He said that a mid-sized value addition plant would cost at least Sh10 million and it can post a profit of Sh3 million a year.

"This is a sector that, if given the necessary support, can absorb many of our unemployed youths and serve as an ideal driver to battle grassroots poverty since the cost of production is barely two per cent of anticipated returns," he said.

Joseph Mwaura, who has sold sugarcane in Maragua town for the past 20 years, says returns are a shilling for a shilling.

"If you buy a piece of sugarcane for Sh20 at the farm gate, it will post Sh40 as return. I have educated my three children to university level by selling sugarcane. I agree that this is a high yielding sector that has not been taken seriously," he says.

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