Sugarcane farmers have called for absolute consultation among all stakeholders and the state before the sale of five milling plants in western Kenya.
The farmers said that as much as they were ready to buy the idea to privatize the factories, they were not happy with the way the government was pushing for the agenda.
“The commission for privatization chaired by Mr. Henry Obwocha has never consulted farmers fully on the sale of their factories. It is absurd that the commission is proposing some queer calculations that would give outsiders an upper hand in the running of the mills,” said farmer John Owili from the Awendo Sugar-belt in Migori County.
The factories earmarked for sale are Sony, Chemelil, Muhoroni, Nzoia and Miwani but farmers have vowed never to let them go in a haphazard fashion.
The farmers said they were suspicious with the way the commission was pushing for the firms’ privatization process, saying there were so many issues that needed to be addressed first before the sales can be actualized.
“They have not told us about the job security of employees of the firms after the sales, how they will deal with the sugar barons who are a threat to the survival of the firms and above all who will control the pricing of the cane,” paused another farmer, Jael Otieno.
Last week, Deputy President William Ruto said the State was ready to surrender its stake in the identified milling plants as a measure to streamline the management of the sector.
But in a statement to the press today, the Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Secretary General Mr. Ezra Okoth Olodi said the government must be clear on how the move would benefit the farmers and not the cartels eying to make a ‘kill’ in the sector.
“It is true that farmers and union officials are watchful about the way the State is rushing the process, triggering suspicions that there could be a plot by some powerful people to buy the firms,” said Olodi.
He said it was noble that the State works on a broad plan that would ensure the plants remained in the hands of the farmers as the lead proprietors after the sales.
The union official also pointed out that there must a clear route on how the firms’ nuclear lands would be protected from grabbers.