Hope for sugar industry as government forms task force

Branded Mumias sugar.The government will implement the recomendations of the sugar taskforce country./FILE

Nairobi, KENYA: The ongoing crisis in the sugar industries in western region may soon come to an end after the decision by the government to launch a sugar task force to relook into some of the challenges the industry has been facing in more than a decade.

The challenges have led to inadequate production of sugar for national consumption and denied steady income to farmers.

According to the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, the main objective of the Taskforce is to identify the challenges and recommend a lasting solution(s) to the problems that has been eating the industry.

“It is envisaged that through the implementation of the recommendations of the task force, all the stakeholders in the value chain will realize value from their endeavors and in the long term address the challenges of the current uncompetitiveness of the industry as well as contribute to the economic growth of the country,” Kiunjuri said.

He stated that, some of the challenges that the industry has been undergoing include; low cane supply, cane poaching, aging equipment, obsolete technology, high debt portfolio, farmer’s arrears, staff salary arrears/non remittance of statutory deductions, lack of regulations, poor corporate governance, lack of sector funding, excess sugar importation among others.

The task force has been mandated to review the policy, legal, regulatory and institutional framework of the sugar industry and make appropriate recommendations within 30 days work plan.

The task force has to also review past, present and emerging challenges facing the sugar industry and make appropriate recommendations on importation and taxation structures in the sugar sector.

CS Kiunjuri who is the chair of the task force, also noted that, the task force will review the pricing mechanism in the sector as well as develop a comprehensive report with recommendations to be implemented in the short, medium and long term.

Speaking in the same event, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa assured that national government will work hand in hand with the county government to bring to an end the sugar crisis.

Kakamenga governor Wycliffe Oparanya who is a co chair of the sugar task force committee, urged the ministry of Agriculture to ensure that it embarks on a program that will pay sugar farmers the way they pay those of maize.

The team was formed following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive at the Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kakamega.

Uhuru directed the Ministry of Agriculture and National Treasury to immediately put in place a framework to pay sugarcane farmers their Sh2.6 billion arrears owed by public millers after auditing the amount.