Matayos MP Geoffrey Odanga has expressed concern over the current cane shortage at the Busia Sugar Company.
Speaking to the press during a visit by the parliamentary committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and livestock development at the facility on Thursday, Odanga noted that the company that had employed over 2,000 local residents and had 200 tractors can no longer operate to its full capacity.
“The factory management has been forced to retrench 1,400 of its employees and only 600 are now working,” he said, adding that the 200 tractors are lying idle.
He stated that there was need for laws that will regulate cane growing in Western Kenya region.
“The recommendations that we have received from the local farmers is that there is need for zoning and the return of the Kenya Sugar Board,” he said.
The lawmaker encouraged the local farmers to continue growing cane, adding that they will be protected by the laws that will not allow importation of cane or sugar before clearing the locally available produce.
“Local farmers should not abandon cane farming,” he said, warning those who are practicing cane poaching to stop the vice.
The chairman of the committee Dr. John Mutunga said that the company that was operating at a capacity of 3,500 tonnes per day, cannot even reach 200 tonnes due to shortage of cane.
Mutunga cited negative competition as one of the challenges affecting cane growing in the region.
“They have tried to have cane zones so that cane can grow to maturity after 18 months but we have realized that farmers are currently harvesting their cane after nine months,” he said, adding that there is a big shortage of the commodity.
He further stated that a number of farmers have abandoned cane growing and ventured into other crops.
The lawmaker urged the government to set aside parcels of land for seed cane production so that it can be supplied to farmers.
“Contract farming has failed due to breach of contracts by a section of farmers,” he said, adding that farmers should stick to the contract agreements.
By Salome Alwanda