KENYA – The domestic sugar sector in Kenya, once a thriving source of income for farmers, millers, and the government, continues to grapple with challenges despite government interventions.  

However, a glimmer of hope is emerging for sugarcane farmers in Western Kenya, as the Senate pledges to expedite the passing of the Sugar Bill 2022, a crucial step towards rejuvenating the ailing industry. 

The proposed Sugar Bill introduces measures such as a sugar development levy, the reinstatement of the Kenya Sugar Board, the establishment of a Sugar Arbitration Tribunal, and the zoning of sugar catchment areas. 

The sugar development levy is a central feature of the bill, aiming to support the local sugar industry by charging both local and imported sugar.  

The levies collected will be allocated with 15 per cent going for the maintenance of local factories, 15 percent towards local research training, and 40 percent for cane development for farmers. 

Furthermore, the bill recommends allocating 15 percent of the levy for the Sugar Regulation Board and 10 percent for roads and infrastructure development in sugar belt regions, managed by the Kenya Rural Roads Authority of the respective catchment areas. 

Addressing the concerns of farmers, the bill proposes the re-establishment of the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) to regulate the sector directly, addressing challenges more effectively. The board will consist of five representatives from each catchment area, ensuring localized input. 

Francis Wangara, Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers, expressed frustration with previous unimplemented reports, stating, “I hope this time round this Bill will address the issues once and for all.” 

The bill also introduces the Sugar Arbitration Tribunal, aiming to arbitrate disputes in the sugar sector, with a qualified individual appointed by the Chief Justice to lead the tribunal.  

Additionally, to enhance productivity, the proposal includes the establishment of the Kenya Sugar Research Training Institute to regulate research in sugar-related fields. 

To alleviate unhealthy competition among millers, the bill suggests dividing sugar catchment areas into five zones, promoting fair competition and preventing the exploitation of farmers.  

The introduction of a sugarcane pricing committee, overseeing sugar prices, further protects the interests of farmers. 

Kilion Osur Anyango, Secretary-General of the Kenya National Federation of Sugar Cane Farmers, supported zoning but emphasized the freedom for independent farmers to choose their mills within a region. 

Senate Committee Chair on Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, James Murango Kamau, affirmed the committee’s commitment to considering stakeholder views, pledging to fast-track the bill’s enactment within one month.  

This legislative effort complements existing government support, including subsidized fertilizer, supportive laws, and financial bailouts, aimed at revitalizing the sugar sector. 

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