MPs quash rules to shield farmers from cane cartels

Cane delivery tractors.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A parliamentary committee has quashed new regulations that were meant to protect cane growers from price manipulation.
  • The rules had empowered Agriculture CS Peter Munya to form a committee to set prices for sugar cane delivered to millers.
  • Sugar cane prices were to be based on sucrose levels, making it difficult for unscrupulous millers or cartels to arm-twist farmers.

The State’s bid to revive the ailing sugar industry has flown into headwinds after a parliamentary committee quashed new regulations that were meant to protect cane growers from price manipulation.

The Committee on Delegated Legislation in its report on the Crops (Sugar) (General) Regulations of 2020 said the Agriculture ministry did not undertake public participation contrary to the law.

The Tiaty MP William Kamket-chaired committee urged the House to annul the regulations, a move that if approved will force the State back to the drawing board and derail, if not delay efforts to revive the industry.

The rules that were gazetted in May among other things empowered Agriculture secretary Peter Munya to form a committee to set prices for sugar cane delivered to millers to protect growers from unfair pricing.

Currently, the State does not set price ranges for sugar cane millers leaving thousands of farmers at the mercy of the factories that besides low prices, delay payments.

“The committee recommends that the house annuls in its entirety the said statutory instrument for failing to demonstrate that sufficient public participation was undertaken contrary to articles 10 and 118 of the Constitution and sections, 5A and the schedule to the Statutory Instruments Act,” the House committee says in the report.

The team said sugar cane growing areas such as Kwale had been left out of the public hearings that anchored formulation of the regulations.

Sugar cane prices were, under the regulations, set to be based on sucrose levels, making it difficult for unscrupulous millers or cartels to arm-twist farmers.

Cane earnings have remained flat in four years to last year with farmers getting Sh207 million from Sh213 million in 2015 highlighting the dwindling fortunes for growers.

The rules made it illegal for millers to reject burnt cane provided that the two had signed contracts before harvesting of the crop.

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