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(Kenya) New miller gives cane farmers renewed hope

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Government Boiler inspector, Santosh Kole at Busia Sugar Industries where he inspected the plant and gave the management a clean bill of health. [PHOTO:John Shilitsa] Local sugarcane farmers are upbeat as Busia Sugar Industries prepares to open factory in the county. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is expected to commission the new factory any time this month.Local farmers have been suffering due to the free fall of Mumias Sugar Company.Mumias has been unable to pay farmers for their deliveries and its equipment is dilapidated. Debts are also chocking the miller.

Efforts to revive Mumias have failed even after billions of taxpayers’ money was sunk into it.But yesterday, the management Busia Sugar Industries said the Sh5 billion mill will start harvesting and milling cane anytime following a series of run tests and inspection of the factory by government agencies.Michael Oriko, an engineer at the company, told The Standard all arrangements have been made as the miller gets ready to embark to roll out its operations.Boiler inspectors, sent by the Government, have been around to assess the miller and have given us a clean bill of health,” said Oriko.The experts inspected the factory on December 19.Santosh Kole, a boiler inspector, said they are satisfied with the level of preparedness at the sugar firm.We assessed the boilers and other machines and found everything to be in order,” Kole said.Oriko said: We have cleared all the hurdles in our way and we are prepared to embark on crashing cane full throttle.”Oriko said they will start by crashing 3,000 metric tonnes per day and gradually increase with time.We have the best modern machines in the entire East Africa,” he said.Aiman Ahmed, who in charge of transport at the firm, said they have procured 150 tractors that will be used to transport sugarcane, ploughing and harrowing.So far, 50 tractors have already been delivered and the remaining ones are on transit.”He said the company is committed to paying farmers promptly for their deliveries.Farmers will be able to receive their pay seven days after deliveries are made,” said Ahmed.It is good news to farmers who had protested delayed opening of the factory.Busia sugar zone has over 20, 000 farmers. Some of these growers say they already have mature cane ready for harvesting and are optimistic the new sugar factory will provide them with a ready and reliable market.Farmers interviewed said they were worried by delays in the opening of the factory even after the miller had been issued with an operating licence.Elsewhere, farmers farmers allied to Butali Sugar Company have been guaranteed Sh4,000 per tonne of sugarcane.Last week, several sugar firms reduced the price from Sh4,100 to Sh3, 800 prompting protests from farmers.We are happy the management of Butali sugar for assuring farmers their pay will not be reduced,” said William Kopi, chairman of Butali Sugarcane Farmers Association.

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