Sugar cane farmers in Busia County are a happy lot after Olepito Sugar factory unveiled a fleet of 50 tractors worthy Sh.180 million to boost its operations.
According to the miller’s management, the new tractors will tremendously improve its haulage capacity and accelerate cane ferrying from the farms to the factory especially during bulk harvest.
Speaking during the unveiling ceremony at Olepito, Busia Deputy Governor Moses Mulomi hailed the factory’s management for the new machinery saying it will minimize losses arising from delays in collection of farmers’ cane.
He said: “This is a major investment for Busia residents with a crushing capacity of 600 metric tons per day and with plans to expand the factory to 2000 metric tons per day.
“With the modern fleet of tractors, cane should be collected a day after harvesting to guard farmers from incurring huge losses as a result of harvested cane overstaying in farms.”
Mulomi appreciated the factory for its fair treatment of farmers as it offers the lowest cost of service from land preparation to transport services which are paid as per distance and pays farmers within seven days of cane harvesting.
In regards to illegal importation of sugarcane from Uganda by brokers the deputy governor assured the miller’s management that the county and the national government have collaboratively stopped it and increased surveillance along the porous Kenya-Uganda border.
His assurance followed concerns raised by Rai Group Managing Director Tejveee Rai who claimed that the biggest challenge the factory is facing is smuggling of cheap sugarcane into the country as brokers take advantage of the recent sugarcane glut in Uganda.
The MD hailed contracted farmers for ensuring the company continued crushing cane in 2019 and 2020 despite severe shortage of cane and low yields resulting from the 2017/2018 drought.
He said the new tractors will now enable the company boost cane productivity in the region besides optimizing farmers noting that the heavy rains experience in the last two years have made it difficult to pull out the cane from waterlogged fields onto the roads.
Rai Group Chairman, Jaswant Rai assured the local community that it will secure 70 per cent of the jobs meant for it noting that the company has been able to attain its current status owing to a good partnership with farmers, county and national government and other stakeholders.
Farmers who spoke during the ceremony said they will resist any attempts to alter the sugar cane sector regulations and reintroduce zoning.
The farmers said such a move will cripple the sector further hence farmers should be allowed to sell to millers who will absorb their crop as well as make timely payments.
If re-introduced, zoning rules will compel sugarcane growers to sell their cane to a miller operating within their respective regions rather than seeking better prices elsewhere.
The resistance by the farmers follows last month’s resolution between the Council of Governors and the Senate Agriculture committee to shelve the Crops General Regulations 2020 gazetted by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary over certain issues they want rescinded.
The regulations, which give farmers leeway to engage a miller of their choice, were gazetted on May 27, 2020, by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
The regulations disallowed zoning of sugar cane-growing areas and gave millers a freehand to get sugarcane directly from farmers. However the Council of Governors is lobbying for the enactment of another set of rules that seeks to re-introduce the contentious zoning.
By Melechezedeck Ejakait