Closure of sugar mills in Western region is political, Opiyo Wandayi says

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi has claimed that the closure of sugar mills in Western and Nyanza regions is politically motivated.

Speaking during a parliamentary session on Wednesday, he called for the immediate revocation of the Agriculture and Food Authority’s (AFA) 17 July decree calling for the closure of all sugar mills in Western and Nyando sugar zones.

According to the statement, the demand for closure was based on the lack of investment in cane development by millers due to uncontrolled cane harvesting outside the catchment areas, unregulated cane collection centres and the failure of farmers to grow cane properly due to inadequate financing.

The decree goes on to say that this led to the harvesting of immature cane. Milling in the country was less than 25%, resulting in a decline in sugar production in the country for more than six months.

Mr Wandayi alleged that the AFA’s move was an attempt by the state to kill the economy of the Western Region.

The Unguja MP also expressed concern about limited access to subsidised fertiliser in some parts of the country.

“Last week we protested the deliberate steps to ensure registered farmers do not access the state-supplied subsidized fertilizers… As if denial of fertilizer is not cruel enough, the decision of the Kenya Kwanza regime to close sugar mills in Western and Nyanza is equally meant to shut down their avenue to earn income.” Wandayi said.

He also referred to the controversy surrounding the AFA report which stated that Trans Mara, Butali, Naitiri and Olepito sugar mills had enough sugar supply while other millers in the region had less.

“It doesn’t add up that in a vast sugar belt where millers are free to buy cane anywhere, some factories in the same belt would be cane-sufficient while others are cane-deficient,” he said.

Mr Wandayi added that the Agriculture and Food Authority had no power to close sugar mills over an alleged shortage of cane and that this was a move to create a sugar shortage to enable the government to import sugar.

Major sugar mills that have so far closed include West Kenya Sugar Company (Kabras), Butali Sugar Mills, Mumias Sugar and Nzoia Sugar.

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