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MP Raises Alarm Over Sugar Cartels

February 6, 2014

Barry Salil

TINDERET MP Julius Meli has said a cartel of unscrupulous traders working with sugar millers are behind the poor cane prices. He appealed to the Kenya Sugar Board to intervene and save the industry from collapsing. Meli said the current cane prices offered to the farmers by millers is a big threat to the future of the sub-sector. He said the parliamentary committee on agriculture should also peotect farmers from further exploitation. Meli was speaking to cane farmers in Tinderet on Monday. He said the government through KSB should support the growers through the establishment of "Mavuno fund". He said this will allow farmers access to funds as they wait for cane prices to improve. "We highly suspect that there is a high level of under hand dealings among the millers who agree to fix the prices of raw cane to the disadvantage of the farmer," Meli said. Cane price per tone has fallen from sh. 3,900/= to sh, 2,300/= in the last Six months prompting fears from farmers while the price of a 5oKg bag from Chemelil sugar company has fallen from sh 4,200/= to sh. 3,300/=. Following the nose diving of cane prices, Meli claimed that farmers were unable to meet their obligations in servicing loans particularly those advanced to them by Agricultural Finance Corporation . The MP who was accompanied by a high powered team from AFC led by the board chairman Patrick Osero , the corporations CEO Lucas Meso and the deputy managing director with the Kenya Sugar Board Solomon Odera also called for the crackdown of millers who had allegedly adulterated cane weighing scale. Meso said AFC could re-schedule loan repayment programmes but ruled out calls for writing off of past debts. "That is an old and destructive style of managing debts, AFC will only reschedule loans and if need be, we shall re-finance the same farmers and plan how to ensure the loans are repaid," the MD said. He said AFC was increasing Cane loan repayments for a period of 5 years with a reducing interest rate charged at 5 percent, Meso appealed to the farmers to form groups and seek loans to finance the purchase of tractors to transport their produce. "With a group of upto 10 committed farmers, AFC will be ready to look into ways of ensuring your get tractors to transport your cane and plough your plantations," Meso said. Odera, the Kenya Sugar Board MD appealed to state owned cane companies to establish modalities of reducing operation costs through value additions. He said KSB had advanced Chemelil Sugar with ks. 1.7 Billion of the sh. 5.7B paid out to other firms towards the revitalizing of the sugar subsector.

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Source: AllAfrica

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