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Gov’t calls for collaboration to tackle woes in sugar sector

The Principal Secretary (PS) of the State Department for Crop Development Kello Harsama has reiterated the need for a joint collaborative approach to address the challenges bedeviling the sugar industry.

He decried the perennial problems and challenges plaguing Kenya’s sugarcane farmers despite the sector’s enormous potential in contributing to the national economy.

“The sugar industry continues to face hurdles which have resulted in inadequate production of sugar for the national market,” Harsama stated.

The challenges, Harsama said, manifest in form of high cost of production, huge debt portfolio by state-owned millers, obsolete technologies, and small-scale farming that hampers the farmers from enjoying economies of scale.

The PS further highlighted that poor maintenance of state-owned milling factories, which still run on ageing machines has led to a reduction in sugar production posing a threat to food security.

He added that poor market integration and unfavourable market competition for cheaper sugar produced within COMESA countries and imports from other nations have led to higher inefficiencies that undermined the viability of the sector.

In a speech read on his behalf by Head of the Agriculture Statistics Unit and the Digital Transformation Technical Committee at the Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Tom Dienya during the 1st Sugar Industry Innovation Symposium and Exhibition held in Kisumu County, the PS urged the national and county governments, farmers and other stakeholders to work harmoniously to revive the sector.

The conference organized by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Sugar Directorate aims at identifying innovative solutions to the challenges facing the sector in a bid to spur growth and open opportunities for upgrading the entire sugar value chain.

The event brings together farmers, state agencies, Research and Academic Institutions, sugar millers, innovators, Private Sector Development Agencies, agro-dealers and financial institutions.

Harsama commended AFA for the inception of the annual sugar sector symposium saying it would create a platform for players to deliberate and develop homegrown solutions that address the industry’s challenges.

“The challenges require solutions emanating from the stakeholders within the sector together with the County and National governments through such events that seek to develop solutions that will enhance efficiency in the sector,” he said.

Kenya’s sugar sub-sector boasts over 600,000 small-scale cane growers and contributes 15 and 2.75 per cent to Agricultural GDP and National GDP respectively. In addition, it offers direct and indirect employment to over 500,000 workers thus playing a key role in poverty reduction.

“The government takes cognizance of the sector’s role in the economy for poverty reduction, employment creation and social, economic development thus prioritizes reform agenda for its sustainability,” he stated.

On her part, the Director General of Agriculture and Food Authority-Kenya, Beatrice Nyamwamu observed that many challenges have crippled the sugar sector leading it to perform under capacity.

She revealed that Kenya’s sugar sector has expanded in terms of infrastructure with a capacity to mill over 55,000 metric tonnes per day against the current rate of 38,000 tonnes on a daily basis.

“The available millers are not processing at full capacity. There is an urgent need to maximize the local capacity that would trigger a ripple effect in the economy by upscaling cane production, and boosting incomes for farmers,” she proposed.

Western Kenya sugar belt has five state-owned sugar milling factories that include Mumias (Kakamega), Nzoia Sugar Company (Bungoma), Chemelil Sugar Company (Kisumu), Miwani Sugar Company (Kisumu), Muhoroni Sugar Company (Kisumu) and South Nyanza Sugar Company (Migori).

By Robert Ojwang’

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