KENYA – The Kenya National Sugar Task Force, appointed to examine what ails the sector for the sake of a revival recently presented the Sugar Taskforce report to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The team, co-chaired by former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya was set up on 8th November 2018.
They made recommendations which include the re-introduction of the sugar levy, privatization of public sugar mills to enhance their efficiency and the enactment of the Sugar Act.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured that the government will implement the recommendations.
Matters pertaining to the sugar levy, it will be charged on consumers so as to raise the revenue needed to assist farmers to develop their sugarcane crop.
Other proposed reforms include the gazettement of the sugar sector regulations including import rules, amendment of the AFA Act and Crops Act in line with the 2010 Constitution, and a review of the taxation regime in the sector to enhance investor incentives.
The taskforce also proposed strict compliance with the COMESA regulations and outlined a raft reforms needed to increase the sugar sector’s productivity.
According to the report, millers have, for the last five years, failed to meet cane requirements due to unavailability of raw materials.
The shortage has been attributed to farmers abandoning cane for other crops due to preferential delays in payments by the millers, with arrears running into millions of shillings.
Currently some 191,215 hectares are under cane with a production of 4.75 million metric tonnes.
The report says “At an average factory efficiency level of 80 per cent, the cane requirement will be 9.84 million MT, which translates to sugar production of 1.09 million MT per annum.”
To meet the requirement for adequate cane supply by millers, planting must be done on at least 263,959 hectares.
Governor Oparanya said the taskforce is convinced that with the implementation of their report, the country will be able to revive its ailing sugar sector to benefit millions of farmers.
Mixed reactions have followed the presentation with Mr Ibrahim Juma, chairman of the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane (KNFSF), welcoming the report, saying it contains a clear formula for paying farmers, reports Daily Nation.
“On behalf of farmers in the region, we are very happy and fully agree with the proposals. If implemented, the report will impact positively efforts for revival of the ailing sugar industry,” he said.
But some farmers have accused the government of attempting to rubber-stamp “unrealistic and impractical” decisions through the report.
While rejecting the proposals, they appealed to President Kenyatta to recall and reconstitute the committee.
Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) Secretary-General Richard Ogendo accused the 16-member committee of drafting the proposals without engaging key stakeholders.
“Among other glaring omissions and commissions, it is surprising that the team came up with the views of stakeholders from Chemelil Sugar Company, while it is in the public domain that the meeting aborted after farmers protested to demand their dues,“ he said.