By Andanje Wakhungu
Cane farmers in Western Kenya and its environs are relieved after the management of Butali and West Kenya Sugar Mills announced the start of cane crushing in December 2023. Farmers are now advised to visit company offices for approval of their mature cane for crushing after more than six months of factory closure that saw most farmers and workers suffer, opting for menial jobs to meet their daily needs. Factories will resume normal operations early next month.
Addressing farmers at Duka Moja, one of the cane development directors, John Lucheli, made the announcement for the resumption of cane crushing in early December after two months of closure. “Already, the factory is warming up the main boiler in preparation for cane crushing starting next month, and we are registering farmers with mature, clean canes for permitting and harvesting in due course so that the operations can start effectively without unnecessary disturbance from a lack of raw materials (cane) to crush.
We will be registering canes that have attained the age of 18 months and above for harvesting, and we need to harvest and stock enough raw materials to kick-start our operations swiftly”.
Farmers and employees received the news with a sigh of relief, saying they have been crippled financially since June when milling operations were put to a halt due to the lack of enough raw materials (cane) to keep the two giant factories running.
Leaders drawn from the area led by Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako have welcomed the resumption of the sugar milling operations but called for the increment of prices per ton from Ksh. 5,800 for West Kenya and Ksh. 6,000 for Butali to over Ksh. 8,000 for the farmer to get value for their crop.
Panyako advised millers to also ensure that workers enjoyed increased salaries upon resumption due to the skyrocketing cost of living. Sugar milling plants that have suspended operations in Western alone are Nzoia Sugar, Olepito Sugar, West Kenya Sugar, Busia Sugar, Butali Sugar, Mumias Sugar, and Naitiri Sugar.