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AFA urged to ensure implementation of sugar factories closure directive

Kisumu County Government has commended the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) for its directive to temporarily suspend operations in sugar factories in western Kenya in a bid to streamline the sector.

According to the County Executive Committee (CEC) Member in Charge of Agriculture, Ken Onyango, AFA’s decision to stop cane milling for three months between July 14 to November 30 is appropriate since it seeks to address the challenge of the sugarcane shortage before the factories are reopened.

So far, Onyango has confirmed that all state-owned sugar millers within the Nyando sugar belt have heeded the directive and halted their operations.

Onyango, while speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, pointed out that Kisumu falls within the sugar cane growing zone, with cane farming and fishing being the major economic activities among its population.

The CEC’s statement comes as sugarcane farmers in the region are opposed to the temporary closure of the factories and have pleaded with authorities to reverse the suspension order, citing the hard economic times.

“We ask our farmers to remain patient and persevere within the three months to enable sugar cane to mature to help sustain the demands of the millers,” appealed Onyango.

At the same time, the county official condemned Kibos Sugar Company for flouting the order to suspend sugar crashing. He claimed that the privately owned sugar factory has continued to mill and is harvesting immature canes across the sugar belt.

“We are appealing to all sugar millers to obey the AFA directive because continued milling will result in cane poaching and the harvesting of immature cane as the factory strives to meet its milling capacity,” Onyango clarified.

Further, he cautioned sugarcane growers to desist from selling their immature canes because their crop will not attract the expected weight, thus incurring losses.

The CEC demands that the AFA flex its muscle and ensure that the directive to halt cane milling for three months is respected and adhered to by all players to ensure a sustainable level playing field.

The AFA Acting Director, Jude Chesire, while issuing the directive in July, accused the millers of engaging in massive cane poaching and harvesting of immature crops in the wake of a biting cane shortage.

The closure, however, did not affect mills in Southern Nyanza since they still had some mature cane in the region to sustain the factories demand.

By Robert Ojwang’

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