New hope as government writes off debts in the sugar sector

To address the challenges that have haunted sugarcane farmers for decades, the Cabinet welcomed the resolution of the National Assembly approving the writing-off of loans owed/tax arrears by public sugar mills amounting to Kshs. 117 Billion. To bolster public sugar mills which are the backbone of the Nyanza/Western economy, the Cabinet also approved a framework to support the public millers to pay farmer arrears and salary arrears through a 90-day payment plan.

President Wiliam Ruto says that this is in preparation for the leasing of the mills to private investors. “The intervention aims to inject competitiveness into the sector and ensure that, at the expiry of the leases, the land reverts to the communities under a cooperative model. We have not been afraid and neither have we hesitated to take difficult decisions to restore sanity in the sugar sector.” The Government, he adds, will ensure prudent management of the factories to safeguard the interests of farmers. Resources from the private sector he notes will be instrumental in upgrading the factories’ facilities to enhance efficiency saying there will be an agreement with them to install new machines and pay farmers on time.

He adds that regulatory reforms are being undertaken to empower farmers and give stakeholders a say in the affairs of the sugar industry. “We remain vigilant and shall closely monitor progress to ensure that government decisions to advance the interests of sugar growers and consumers are fully implemented in a timely fashion. The conversation we have initiated with leaders from the sugar belt will be sustained until we find lasting solutions to the chronic challenges that have brought the sector to its knees and impoverished thousands of hard-working farming households,” says the Head of State.

While noting that the sugar industry remains a high-priority strategic sector for national agro-industrial development, wealth and employment creation, the President however notes that our production is chronically at a deficit.  He attributes this to ageing mills, high indebtedness of sector institutions, diminishing soil fertility, competition for land, low uptake of researched varieties of cane, and low use of fertilizer among other challenges.

“Local and international shortage of sugar has pushed the prices of the commodity beyond the reach of many households, underscoring the urgent need for a comprehensive transformation of the sector. This is why the government has embarked on interventions to deliver a conclusive resolution to the problems undermining the sector’s potential,” opines President Ruto.

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