Sugarcane farmers group wants to be part of key Monday meet
While it is not clear if farmers will take part in the meeting to discuss the efforts to be made in streamlining the once lucrative industry, cane growers have cautioned that their exclusion could be unlawful.
The stakeholders’ engagement will take place against a backdrop of simmering differences over claims of farmers being left out of the 16-member task force formed by the ministry last year.
Following their unsuccessful attempts to have a representative in the committee, a section of growers formed a parallel task force in an attempt to ensure that their voices are heard in the ongoing deliberations to revive the sugar industry.
Through the Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Organisation, headed by interim chairman Saulo Busolo, the team visited sugarcane growing zones around the country as it strategised to have its report consolidated with that of the task force.
The group’s request to be involved in Monday’s meeting signals its willingness to end divisions that have hampered the government’s efforts to establish the root causes of the troubles facing the industry and how to address them.
“It is important to bring farmers on board since they are critical stakeholders in the industry. More than 90 per cent of Kenya’s milled sugar comes from small-scale farmers,” Mr Busolo said.
Mr Kiunjuri is reported to have said that he would neither engage the group nor receive its report to forward to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
But Mr Busolo said it is irrational for the government “to use one man in its attempts to address problems in an industry that mainly depends on farmers for its critical raw material”.
“The top-down communication has not worked in the past and we call upon the minister to include cane growers. This is in line with the principle of public participation as enshrined in the country’s Constitution,” Mr Busolo said.
“We have not received any communication so far but we hope farmers’ representatives will be part of this vital meeting that is expected to come up with important decisions.”
“Given the myriad issues facing the industry, the one day set aside for the meeting will be inadequate. There is a need to earmark the contentious issues to save time and allow stakeholders to be adequately prepared,” he said.
“We have agreed that a permanent solution to this problem must be found, and that is basically to privatise the millers and see how strategic investors can be brought in to partner with the national and county governments,” he said during the meeting at his Capitol Hill office, Nairobi.
“Farmers have suffered for far too long because of inefficiencies in State-owned mills and prefer dealing with private ones. Just like other sectors, the sugar industry should be left to self-regulate and conform to the dynamics of demand and supply,” he said.