When Mumias Sugar Company suspended its operations in the month of June citing cases of sugarcane poaching, many people laughed the reason off.
People took the reason to suspend the operations of sugar production as lame and with no roots to support the decision. The reason was indeed real and Mumias Sugar Company suspended operations due to sugarcane poaching.
Nzoia Sugar Company also came up late last month complaining of the same. Sugarcane poaching is on the rise in Western Kenya and the once vibrant sugar factories like Mumias and Nzoia are feeling the heat.
How is sugarcane poaching done? Why is it called sugarcane poaching? This is how is done: let us use the example of Mumias Sugar Company. Mumias Sugar Company identifies a farmer who wants to grow sugarcane and supply the materials to the factory. The company helps the farmer to plough the land, provide planting materials including stems and fertilizer and when the sugarcane is mature and ready to be harvested, another company comes in and offers the farmer a higher price per ton than the one being offered by Mumias. The farmer, who needs money, has no choice but sell the sugarcane to the new buyer.
The end result is that the company that had incurred all the costs of farming and taking care of the crop gets nothing but losses. These new sugarcane poachers go to the farmer direct with cash. The farmer does not have to go to the company to fill forms and then wait for eternity in order to be paid. With the poachers, the farmer is given the money, the sugarcane weighed and then taken to the factory.
It is said that some of the poachers have even managed to buy the sugarcane while it is already on transistor to the contracted company, say Mumias Sugar Company. What can be done to curb sugarcane poaching?
First, let the farmer be left to plant his sugarcane on his own. Let no company help him. After the sugarcane is mature, let now the farmer choose where to sell his produce. The work of the companies will now be to compete for sugarcane. It will be upon the companies to look for the farmers and not the other way around.
Second, let companies like Mumias and Nzoia change their modes of paying farmers. In these companies, according to farmers, they delay the payment of farmers after cane delivery. This has led to farmers losing trust in them and hence going for those who are ready to pay.