Sugarcane farmers can finally afford a smile after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Agriculture and the Treasury to come up with a framework to pay outstanding debts.
He said the government owes sugarcane farmers Sh2.6 billion, whose late payment has caused untold suffering.
Addressing Kenyans during the Mashujaa Day celebrations on Saturday, President Kenyatta however asked the ministry to first carry out an audit, to ensure only the right farmers are paid.
“It is not acceptable that cane factories have been collecting cane from farmers and not paying for it while we know very well demand for sugar has been on the rise. As a government that cares, I direct the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Treasury to immediately put in place a framework to audit and pay sugarcane farmers the Sh2.6 billion, the outstanding payment owed to them by public sugar factories,” he directed.
“On the part of the sugarcane farmers, I encourage you all to sell your produce to the factories that are well-run and pay on time; selling to the informal markets cuts your incomes and delays the development of a proper sugar industry.”
He also instructed a taskforce be established, to be led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
The taskforce has a month to come up with recommendations on how to restructure the ailing sugar industry.
“Factories which failed to pay farmers punctually now need to meet their obligations by paying farmers promptly and directly, not through millers. I need not tell you how important sugarcane is for the farmers and families of this region; nor that there have recently been unacceptable delays in payment to farmers who have laboured long and hard,” he said.
President Kenyatta has blamed graft for the myriad of challenges facing the sugar industry, despite government pumping billions of shillings to rescue the farmers from an economic calamity.