The National Treasury has at last paid farmers’ arrears amounting to over Sh.500 million at the South Nyanza Sugar Company.
The amount was part of the over Sh.800 million accumulative debt arrears that the government agreed to clear on behalf of the cash-strapped semi-autonomous plant.
The payments that started streaming in famers’ account last week came as a surprise to many farmers who had lost hope of ever receiving their dues following the long silence that followed after the government dispensed with the first payment of over Sh.300 millions arrears.
“This is an early Christmas gift to most of my fellow farmers who had stopped dreaming of ever earning their arrears from Sony for their cane delivered more than one year ago,” said John Oyiera who confirmed receiving his dues amounting to Sh.250,000.
He was among a group of over 100 farmers whose payments were delayed by the treasury because of a host of anomalies ranging from unclear details of cane owners, missing bank accounts and court cases between Sony and particular farmers.
Mrs. Jane Muhonja who on Sunday visited her bank in Awendo town and found her account credited with over 300,000 was lost for words to express her joy.
Shedding tears of joy while speaking to KNA, Mrs. Muhonja only stressed these words; “Mungu ni Mwema (God is great). Asante sana Serikali yetu (Many thanks to our government). Mtoto sasa ataingia shule mwaka ujao (My child will now go to school next year)
Through her second born, Mary Mbone, we were made to understand that her last born son, Joel Muhonja who scored 275 marks in 2019’s KCPE examinations will now join form one class at Bware Secondary school in 2020 without much ado.
Confirming the released payments, the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Union (KNFSFU) South Nyanza branch, Argwings Adongo said he was happy with the government for settling the debts owed to the farmers after a long period of time.
“I know of some farmers who were almost breaking down and were in the verge of committing suicide because of losing in terms of income since Sony had withheld their money for long,” said Mr.Adongo.
However, he said the settled batch of debts was only those accrued up to November 2018 and appealed to the Sony management and the state to pay farmers their dues running from the month of December, 2018 to date.
The state owned miller also has not paid its employees’ salaries since February this year and owe contractors and suppliers millions of shillings to date.
The company ran into more problems last month after acting Managing Director (MD), James Oluoch who many thought would transform the operations of the factory into profit making, resigned from the offices.
His replacement, Steve Ligawa will now have to work overboard to ensure that the plant gain its former status amid a myriad of problems ranging from serious cane poaching by other private factories, unmotivated employees, persistence breakdown of machines due to lack of maintenance.
By George Agimba