KENYA- The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) has warned against continued cane poaching by sugar millers which has contributed to the sugar shortage.

In a meeting with representatives of all sugar millers, Hon. Cornelly Serem, AFA Chairman expressed concern about the rise of cane poaching and noted that he would involve the police to eliminate the vice.

Serem also disclosed that AFA had taken steps to tame cane poaching by closed mills for four months to ensure cane matures and milling returned to normal.

He explained that the decision was a result of the studies that showed most of the cane in the field was between 11 to 13 months and required another four months to be ready for crushing.

“The issue of harvesting immature cane will come to an end and if you continue your license be actually cancelled,” he warned.

He also promised to support millers who invest in cane development and promised protection of their investments.

He concluded by noting that the regulator was keen on tightening laws against cane poaching to further protect millers from losing their investments as a result of the vice.

Earlier in August three state-owned sugar millers – Chemelil, Miwani, and Muhoroni- in the Nyando sugar belt and Kisumu were directed to cease milling operations due to cane shortage occasioned by unethical cane harvesting across the sugar belt.

Kisumu County agriculture executive, Kenneth Onyango however noted that  that some private millers in Western Kenya were harvesting 10-month-old cane instead of 16 or 18-months

 “We are warning sugarcane growers to stop selling their immature cane because their crop will not attract the expected weight and only incur huge losses,” he warned.

He clarified that the closure did not affect mills in Southern Nyanza since they still had some mature cane in the region to sustain the factories’ demand.