A plea to address Challenges Facing the Sugar Sector in Western Kenya

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

Bumula Member of Parliament, Hon. Jack Wamboka, has urged H.E. President William Ruto to address the long-standing issues plaguing the sugar sector in the Western Region. In his speech, Wamboka emphasized the need for concrete solutions to revive the struggling sugar industry. He called on President Ruto to fulfill his promise of establishing a new sugar mill, similar to the commitment made to Nzoia Sugar Company.

In a press statement, Wamboka drew an analogy, likening the President’s role to that of a provider who satisfies the needs of dependents. He emphasized the urgency of resolving the challenges faced by the ailing sugar sector and completing the stalled projects abandoned by the previous government. Wamboka specifically called for the removal of investors who have failed to revitalize Mumias Sugar Company, describing the situation as a battleground.

He emphasized the importance of injecting funds into Nzoia Sugar Company to enable the timely payment of farmers who have been awaiting compensation. Wamboka pointed out that the last financial support the company received was towards the end of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure. Additionally, Wamboka urged President Ruto to share his administration’s plans for finishing the shelved projects, including the Koica water project and the Musikoma-Mungatsi road.

Sugar production in Western Kenya has been a cornerstone of the region’s economy for decades. However, the sugar industry in this area grapples with a multitude of challenges, profoundly affecting both local farmers and the broader economy of Western Kenya counties.

One of the most pressing challenges plaguing sugar factories in Western Kenya is their reliance on outdated technology and inefficient production methods. Many factories operate with antiquated machinery, resulting in subpar productivity and escalated production costs. This outdated technology puts these factories at a disadvantage on the global stage, impeding their ability to compete effectively.

The cost of producing sugar in Western Kenya surpasses that of other regions due to several factors. Firstly, the aforementioned outdated technology translates to higher energy consumption and, consequently, inflated electricity bills. Furthermore, the absence of economies of scale, primarily due to small-scale farming practices, compounds these high production costs.

Inadequate infrastructure, particularly in transportation and irrigation systems, poses another formidable challenge to sugar factories in Western Kenya. Substandard road networks hinder efficient sugarcane transportation, leading to delays and increased transportation costs for farmers. Moreover, insufficient irrigation systems hamper optimal crop growth and overall yield. This lack of proper infrastructure contributes to post-harvest losses and reduced profitability for sugar factories in the region.

The challenges confronting sugar factories in Western Kenya have a direct and adverse impact on farmers who rely on sugarcane cultivation as their primary source of income. Decreased profitability, low prices offered by factories, delayed payments, and heightened production costs have left many farmers struggling financially. Consequently, this has led to a decline in sugarcane farming activities and a shift towards alternative crops or livelihoods.

These challenges have also had a ripple effect on the broader economy of Western Kenya counties. The dwindling sugar production has resulted in reduced employment opportunities, leading to increased unemployment rates and heightened poverty levels. Furthermore, the decrease in revenue from sugar exports has adversely affected the overall economic growth and development of the region.

Addressing these challenges necessitates a comprehensive approach involving the modernization of technology, investment in infrastructure, stable government policies, and support for farmers. This multifaceted effort is crucial to ensuring the sustainable growth and development of the sugar industry in Western Kenya.

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