It is a reprieve for sugar cane farmers in Busia County after the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) and sugar milling companies’ directors agreed to allow cane milling companies to resume operations.
According to them the order from AFA to suspend sugar milling affected them, adding that canes ready to be harvested were being wasted in the farms.
“The move to allow sugar mills to resume operations across the country by AFA and sugar mills is a move as farmers, we welcome. Mature canes are ready to be harvested but because factories were not working there was nowhere we could take them,” said Maureen Okoit, a cane farmer in Nambale.
Maureen said that for the period sugar cane factories have not been milling they have struggled to take their children to school due to lack of school fees, adding, “We are sure that our cane will be harvested any time and with prompt payment from companies, farmers will have the money to pay school fee for their children.”
Mr Peter Oliwa, the cane farmer from Musokoto village noted that for the few months sugar factories have not been operating, they have failed to expand their farming saying, “We could not get money to plant more canes in our farms. Some of us harvest the cane to get enough capital to plant more acreage of cane.”
Mr Ezekiel Wabwire appealed to other cane farmers to capitalize on the ongoing rains to plant more cane adding that it is during the rainy seasons sugar cane does well.
He challenged farmers who are contracted by certain sugar companies to sell them cane to stick to the agreement, agreed upon between the cane factories and farmers.
“It is just an appeal to my fellow farmers to stick to the agreement reached between them and sugar mills. Some farmers despite signing agreements with certain sugar companies to supply them cane upon maturity, they sell their cane to other millers breaching the agreement.” Said Mr Wabwire.
The farmers thanked the move by West Kenya Sugar Company Limited for supplying them with fertilizer and quality cane seed to plant during this rainy season.
“If West Kenya will continue supplying us with seeds and fertilizer that means I will have to expand cane farming. I have already received fertilizer to top-dress my cane, which will translate into a good harvest,” said Mr Chrispinus Dindi cane farmer.
He added “The challenge we are facing as cane farmers is the type of soil we have. If you don’t apply enough fertilizer in our cane fields we may not harvest anything meaningful.”
According to Boniface Oundo field officer at West Kenya Sugar Company, the company supports cane farmers from the planting stage to the maturity stage.
“As the company we support the farmer with necessary farm inputs until the cane is harvested. We supply them with seed cane, fertilizer, and transportation as long as the farmer is ready and willing to take care of the cane farm,” said Mr Oundo
He added, “We also educate the farmers we contract on how to look after the cane to maximize the production.”