Residents of Migori County have expressed fears over their security in the event that the almost defunct Awendo-based Sony Sugar Company eventually collapsed.
The residents are living in fear after cases of insecurity escalated due to hundreds of youths left idling since production at the milling plant took a nose dive
Already, the dwindling operation of the Awendo-based Sony Sugar Company has triggered a volley of home burglaries and violent robberies in villages believed to be perpetrated by people who have lost income from the factory.
Most pockets of the local people are empty and they are unable to fend for their families properly after losing their income from the factory, rued one factory worker Peter Otieno who was recently handed a sacking letter.
The rate of poverty has risen among the people in the recent days after farmers and workers stopped receiving payments from the once vibrant employer within the county.
Some of the workers, mainly casuals and contracted personnel, were recently laid off leading to a severe reduction of cash circulation in the whole region.
Many of the jobless lot and especially cane cutters are now reported to be engaging in menial chores and, unfortunately, others have decided to take the criminal route in order to put food on their tables for their families.
Police records indicate that in the last five months, criminal cases, ranging from house breaks, thefts of poultry and robberies in villages and urban centres have doubled compared to last year when Sony was a bit stable in its operation and payments to workers and farmers.
Consequently, the residents, mostly farmers, now want the government to revitalize the operation of the factory in order to protect jobs at the factory and at the same time preserve the market for their produce.
One of the biggest sugarcane producers in the Awendo Sugar-belt Mr. Joel Onyango claimed that unless the government assisted in bringing back the factory to its former glory, the region would suffer a lot in terms of the living standards because the milling plant has been the only major source of income for the local people.
“The death of Sony is likely to render many people hopeless starting with farmers, workers, suppliers, transporters and all those indirectly benefiting from the factory,” said Onyango.
Many of the local people fear that the private-owned sugar millers in the area were likely to exploit them further once Sony faced a complete shut down as a result of the poor management and corruption that has seen it plunge into a serious financial crunch in the recent months.
The Ndhiwa Based Sukari Industries in Homa Bay and Trans Mara Sugar Company in Narok County are all private and pay low prices for cane delivered by farmers.
However, Sony Chairman Mr. Owino Likowa is assuring stakeholders that the factory was slowly reverting to proper operation and soon it would make profit and pay farmers all arrears owed to them.
“We are doing all that is possible to see that the plant operates perfectly and generate money that can be paid to workers and farmers at the right time,” he said, adding that the State was also supporting them towards bringing back the factory from its knees.
By George Agimba