14-member sugar task force unveiled
Published on: November 08, 2018 07:29 (EAT)
The government has announced a 14-member task force in a fresh initiative to try and rescue the crippled sugar sector. The task force to be gazetted on Friday November 9, kicks off its work on Monday November 12, with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri visiting North Rift and Western Kenya sugar belts where sugarcane farming is on its knees. The CS will co-chair the team with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Other members include sugar belt region growing Governors Okoth Obado of Migori and Kisumu’s Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o representing the Council of Governors to dig into the issues bedeviling the industry. “In the long term, we want to address the challenges of the current uncompetiveness of the industry as well as contribute to the economic growth of our country,” said CS Kiunjuri. The task force will also include representation from the Privatization Commission, public and private millers, the Inter-Governmental Relations Technical Committee, Governmental Budget and Economic Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Authority, Treasury, National Assembly and the Senate, Kenya Sugar Federation and the Attorney General’s Office. The move also raises hopes that the long-suffering sugarcane farmer may at last be paid the Ksh.2.6 billion owed to them by public sugar factories. The task force has 30 days within which to table its recommendations on revitalizing the ailing sugar sector that has left sugar farmers in the red. The sector has also suffered major setbacks caused by cheap sugar imports flooding the market some repackaged in the names of popular local brands. “It is envisaged that through implementation of the recommendations of the task force all the stakeholders in the value chain will realize values from their endeavors,” said CS Kiunjuri. The formation of the task force has however been opposed by a cross section of Western Kenya leaders who claim it will not touch on the sugar cartels and sugar barons responsible for collapsing the industry. This was after a Parliamentary initiative to probe importation of duty free sugar in the country, fell apart after Parliament rejected a report by the joint Agriculture and Trade Committee of the National Assembly. To cure this, the leaders propose the establishment of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. “The task force does not have powers to summon and prosecute barons who are implicated but a commission of inquiry can,” said ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi. The formation of the task force may also mean a wind fall for sugar cane farmer as President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the farmers to be paid their Ksh.2.6 billion in arrears owed by public millers. “We will audit the Ksh.2.6 billion, we want to know if they owe the millers and if they are real farmers or not,” said CS Kiunjuri. Billions of shillings have been pumped into public sugar millers to jump start them back into life to no success. The task force follows President Kenyatta’s directive at the Mashujaa day celebrations in Kakamega.