A wave of relief washed over Kenya’s sugar sector as the government finally disbursed Sh7 billion in long-overdue arrears to cane farmers and staff of four public sugar mills. This long-awaited move brings hope for financial stability and renewed optimism amidst plans to lease the struggling mills for 20 years.
“After months of tireless advocacy and hardship, we finally have some light at the end of the tunnel,” declared Joseph Mwaniki, a cane farmer at the Muhoroni Sugar Company. “Receiving these arrears means putting food on the table, repaying debts, and finally investing in our farms.”
The Sh7 billion payout covers outstanding dues owed to farmers and staff at Muhoroni, Nzoia, South Nyanza, and Chemelil sugar mills. These crippling debts accumulated over years of mismanagement and financial losses, leaving thousands trapped in a cycle of hardship and uncertainty.
“Many families were on the brink of collapse,” shared Joyce Kwambo, a worker at the Nzoia Sugar Company. “These arrears were more than just numbers; they represented broken promises and shattered dreams. Today, we feel a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.”
The government’s decision to pay the arrears coincides with its ongoing efforts to revitalize the struggling sugar sector. With a plan to lease the four mills for 20 years, authorities hope to attract private investors and inject much-needed efficiency and expertise.
“Lease-financing is a bold step towards reviving the sugar industry,” stated Agriculture CS Peter Munya. “By attracting competent private partners, we aim to boost sugar production, create jobs, and finally provide long-term stability for farmers and mill staff.”
However, some farmers remain skeptical, expressing concerns about transparency in the leasing process and potential job losses. “We want guarantees that our interests will be protected,” asserted Miriam Otieno, a representative of the South Nyanza Sugarcane Farmers’ Association. “We don’t want the leased mills to become exploitation factories once again.”
The government emphasizes its commitment to ensuring a fair and transparent leasing process, with community involvement and robust safeguards for farmers and workers. As the process unfolds, the delicate balance between attracting investment and protecting livelihoods will be crucial for the long-term success of the sugar sector revival.
For now, the Sh7 billion payout offers a sweet reprieve for Kenya’s cane farmers and mill staff. It’s a sign of progress, a testament to their perseverance, and a glimmer of hope for a brighter future. Whether leasing proves to be the sector’s ultimate panacea remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Kenya’s sugar industry stands at a crossroads, and its next chapter will be shaped by the choices made in the coming months.