Sugarcane growers and transporters from Nyando sugar belt in Kisumu County are counting losses following breakdown of two major millers in the region.
Closure of Chemelil and Kibos has left farmers stranded with over 14,000 tonnes of the crop drying on the farms and trucks as long queues of tractors were witnessed at different weighbridges .
Muhoroni Sugar Company is now the only operating mill in the region.
“We are stuck with over Sh50 million worth of cane at different stages even as the mature crop is yet to be harvested over 24 months later,” said Mr Isaiah Okoth from Muhoroni.
Long lines of trucks were seen at West Kenya’s Miwani, Mberere and Kipsitet weighbridges while Muhoroni Sugar Company was overwhelmed by hundreds of transporters who queued to deliver their canes.
Mr David Maiyo from Chemase in Nandi County said he has pitched camp at Miwani weighbridge for over a week without any hope of having his sugarcane offloaded.
“We have been hoping that we will have our produce delivered but the numbers keep piling day by day,” he said.
Drivers of over 200 tractors that pitched camp outside the West Kenya facility said the delay continues to see them incur huge expenses on meals while they are forced to spend nights in the cold to protect the harvests.
“We are facing a crisis and have had cases of vandals carting away parts of the tractors,” said Mr George Opiyo, a driver.
Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association secretary general Richard Ogendo said the capacity of Muhoroni Sugar Company is stretched and cannot be relied on to crush the accumulated cane in the expansive Nyando sugar belt.
“Muhoroni is currently handling an approximate 1,000 tonnes of cane per day against a supply of 7,000 and this has left a huge backlog,” he said.
Chemelil is conducting a mini-maintenance on boilers and mills while Kibos sugar temporarily shut down after its turbines collapsed last week. Despite having an installed capacity of crushing 3,000 tonnes of cane per day, Chemelil Sugar Company has been doing 1,000 tonnes and making it difficult to cater for its overhead costs.
Mr Gabriel Nyangweso, the State-owned miller’s managing director, said the company is targeting to carry out maintenance in the boilers and the mills in order to ensure maximum extraction of sucrose and curb increased cases of breakdown.
West Kenya management, however, absolved themselves from blame saying that the tractors were not destined for their mills.
“The tractors do not belong to any of our associated companies and the loaded sugarcane does not belong to any of the company’s contracted farmers,” they said in a statement.
But Mr Ogendo blamed the National Assembly’s departmental committee on Agriculture for delaying to pass the Sugar Bill which proposed to reintroduce Sugar Development Levy three years on.