Sugarcane farmers have dismissed a taskforce formed by the government to discuss reforms in the ailing sector and instead formed their own taskforce.
The newly formed team is set to lead all sittings that will discuss challenges facing the sugarcane sector and it comprises of cane farmers mainly from the Western region led by Sugar Board Chairman Saul Busolo.
Sugarcane farmers have termed the government’s taskforce led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mwangi Kiunjuri and the Governor of Kakamega County Wycliffe Oparanya as incompetent and biased.
CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya faced hostility from farmers over 2.7 billion shillings debt owed to them, forcing its sessions to be canceled until the arrears are cleared.
According to Busolo, the team is determined to come up with a comprehensive report bearing the true plight of farmers, which will be presented to President Uhuru Kenyatta for action.
“The current task force lacks the representation of farmers and so we want to conduct our own survey that will bring together all the stakeholders,” said Busolo.
Among concerns by farmers is the plan to reintroduce zoning to sugar factory which they have opposed, a proposal which comes at a time when West Kenya and Busia Sugar factories are entangled in a war over control of cane in the western belt.
The Sugar Campaign for Change (Sucam) has termed zoning of sugarcane farmers as an anti-competitive practice that will disadvantage the growers.
The parallel task force seeks to have the views collected across sugar-producing counties presented to the government for inclusion in the draft Crops (Sugar) General Regulations, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had issued a directive for the formation of a task force to look into the plight of sugarcane farmers in the country and recommend modules to revive the ailing industry which has for decades suffered under the hands of cartels.
The President last week indicated farmers will be paid directly and not through millers “to avoid diversion of money.”