A group of cane farmers from Western Region have formed a parallel taskforce to look into the challenges facing famers after they dismissed the one set up by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri as incompetent and biased.
The rival team led by former Kenya Sugar Board chairman Saul Busolo say it is determined to come up with a comprehensive report detailing the plight of famers which they will present to President Uhuru Kenyatta for action
During the inaugural meeting at Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre in Bungoma County on Monday, the farmers said that they had come together under the banner of Kenya Sugar Alliance umbrella to find lasting solution to be realised in the sugar sector.
This is despite Agriculture CS Kiunjuri setting up a taskforce as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta during 2018’s Mashujaa Day celebrations under the chairmanship of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya.
The Saul Busolo led taskforce is confident that it will unearth genuine problems that cane famers face.
Busolo said that farmers resolved to come up with the plan in order to compel President Uhuru Kenyatta through the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri, to pay farmers for cane delivered to Nzoia, Muhoroni, Chemelil, Sony and Mumias sugar companies running into billions of shillings.
Busolo said all that the farmers want is a commitment from the government to pay their money directly into their bank accounts and not attending Oparanya’s numerous meetings.
He said farmers are ready to go to the streets if that is the only language the Ministry of Agriculture can understand.
The chairman also noted that farmers are against the government’s plan of zoning farmers adding that they have a right to take their cane produce to any factory of their choice so long as they get paid on time.
Mr. Busolo said that currently no farmer is demanding for payment from well managed private sugarcane millers like West Kenya.
He called for a proper audit of genuine sugarcane farmers to avoid paying ghost sugarcane farmers like happened in the maize industry.
His sentiments were echoed by Richard Ogendo from the Nyanza Region and Mr. Charles Atiang’ the chairman of Allied Industries who has called on President Kenyatta to intervene over the matter as sugarcane farmers have no confidence in the taskforce formed by Kiunjuri.
Mr. Atiang’ said that the agriculture ministry as currently constituted cannot take care of cane farmers’ concerns even suggesting that President Kenyatta nominate the Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i to clean up the sugar sector.
Just two days ago, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula , Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi called for a strategic investor to partner with Bungoma County Government and find ways of revamping the ailing sugar miller.
By Joy Simiyu/ Roseland Lumwamu