10 CRITICAL POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN DISCUSSING SUGAR WOES IN KENYA

 Here are the ten critical points, according to me, in discussing sugar woes in Kenya.

1. No processing industry in Kenya is competitive enough to successfully compete internationally. Those asking that we diversify from sugar cane because it is non competitive should also ask that we import cheap maize from Tanzania, cheap Rice and cheap everything.

2. Government involvement in development and growth of industries can not be gainsaid. If government wants the sugar industry in Kenya to thrive then it should be seen to go out of the way to tackle issues crippling the industry

3. Kenya has documented potential to have a vibrant sugar industry. The amount of land under sugar is enough to produce raw materials. However, proliferation of millers has reduced economies of scale in terms of amount of cane available to a miller. Strategic merging of millers and creation of infrastructure e.g. Railway to transport cane to millers can solve the problem

4. The sugar industry is on its knees because of lack of government commitment in reforming industry. Since the 1980s there has been talk of sugar industry reforms without actual reforms. Successive governments using the industry in political porn wars, lack of will to reign in on smugglers, and an unfriendly taxation regime have harmed the industry.

5. The sugar firms have failed at innovations and adapting to new ways due to mismanagement by politically right appointees. Due to political patronage people appointed to head sugar firms owe allegiance to political god-fathers rather than the farmers and the firms.

6. Arguments to the effect that small holder farming is the real problem in the sugar industry miss the real issue. Small holding has never been the problem; with blocking systems and intensive farming techniques small holder farmers can compete favorably. For long in Western, with proper management, farmers planted cane on 1 to 2 acre farms and they received enough yields to support their families.

7. Large scale farming without proper varieties is useless as the case of Mumias sugar nucleus demonstrates. Agricultural extension and research services in the sugar sector seem to have died.

8. Privatization is not a solution in dealing with sugar industry challenges. This is because sugar industry is a capital intensive sector and it requires high capital outlay that is only possible through PPP arrangements. Privatizing without definitively dealing with sugar importing cartels is no brainier, the cartels with out-compete any private firm at the expense of the farmer.

9. Changing from sugar cane to other crops or activities is not necessarily a solution because no farming activity lacks challenges; case in point the Milk Glut in central whenever it rains, the woes in coffee sector, the challenges tea farmers face. Let us focus on diversification of livelihoods without imagining that abandoning sugar cane farming altogether is ultimate solution

10. Jubilee government has shown no commitment to reviving sugar industry. Importing sugar from Uganda without clear safeguards on how to stop importation of sugar from elsewhere through Uganda was a farcical move by the Jubilee government!

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