Muhoroni, Chemelil economies in peril as sugar millers go on break

Shop own­ers, trans­porters, bars set to feel brunt of 3-month clo­sure as cane ma­tures

Business Daily (Kenya) - - COUNTY BUSINESS - Ger­ald Andae gan­dae@ke.na­tion­media.com Sugar pro­duc­tion in the coun­try dropped 49 per cent in nine months to Septem­ber Kisumu.

KISUMU I Fac­to­ries in the Nyando sugar belt will take a three­month break to al­low su­gar­cane to ma­ture be­fore har­vest­ing, fur­ther hurt­ing the econ­omy of Muhoroni and Chemelil.

The clo­sure comes just days af­ter the di­rec­torate warned it would with­draw op­er­a­tional li­cences of millers har­vest­ing im­ma­ture cane.

Agri­cul­ture Food Au­thor­ity (AFA) said millers from the re­gion had dis­cussed the mat­ter with the di­rec­torate on sus­pend­ing har­vest­ing for a while.

Most cane within the Nyando re­gion is about 13 months old, which is not ready for har­vest­ing. The va­ri­ety that is mainly grown in the coun­try ma­tures at about 24 months for a new plant or at 18 months if it is a ra­toon crop.

“Millers within this re­gion have re­quested to take a three­month break to en­able the cane to ma­ture be­fore they em­bark on pro­duc­tion,” said the AFA.

The millers in­clude Muhoroni, Chemelil and Ki­bos. How­ever, Ki­bos said it is not break­ing at the mo­ment.

The clo­sure of Muhoroni and Chemelil look set to fur­ther cut the flow of money in the re­gion with trans­porters, har­vesters and con­tract staff in the millers ex­pected to be out of work for three firms. Aux­il­iary busi­nesses like shops and bars are ex­pected to feel the brunt.

The sugar di­rec­torate has been in­vest­ing on early ma­tur­ing cane to cut over-re­liance on the com­mon va­ri­ety that takes long to ma­ture. The new va­ri­ety is es­ti­mated to take 12 months.

The AFA said last week it had warned millers against breach­ing the con­tract that they have en­tered into with farm­ers, which only al­lows them to har­vest ma­ture cane.

Millers have en­tered into con­tract with farm­ers with the dates when the cane is sup­posed to be har­vested clearly stip­u­lated.

Kenyan millers use the weight based method to pay farm­ers and when im­ma­ture cane is har­vested it means the cane will not weigh much, sub­ject­ing grow­ers to low earn­ings.

The move has also sub­jected millers to high cost of pro­duc­tion as they are us­ing more raw ma­te­rial in pro­cess­ing sugar.

Or­di­nar­ily, millers are sup­posed to use 10 tonnes of cane to pro­duce one tonne of sugar but most of them are cur­rently us­ing 12 tonnes.

Millers have been strug­gling with an acute short­age of raw ma­te­rial to mill, sub­ject­ing the coun­try to re­duced pro­duc­tion of the sweet­ener in the mar­ket.

--FILE

SUP­PLY Su­gar­cane is o loaded from a trac­tor at Chemelil sugar frac­tory in

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