May 26th 2017

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Nyanza, Western county governments want to buy sugar firms

Governor Obado, who chairs the agriculture committee of the Council of Governors, said the privatisation effort could not proceed without the input of farmers. He said farmers had been sidelined in the privatisation process and urged them to resist the process.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 04 Oct 2016 12:45 EAT

Stakeholders in the sugar sub sector are calling for an elaborate and proper consultation before the state-owned sugar companies in western Kenya are privatized.The groups have opposed the sale of the firms until they shall have been properly and adequately consulted through the Privatization Commission.

The matter was discussed last week during the Inter-Governmental Relations Technical Committee consultative meeting in Kisumu Town that was chaired by former permanent secretary Karega Mutahi.

Mutahi confirmed that Attorney General Githu Muigai had blessed the meeting, aware of the challenges sugarcane farmers were undergoing to ensure that their input in privatization process is brought on board.

He welcomed concerns that the stakeholders were raising among them the inadequate engagement over the pending privatization. It also emerged that county governments were demanding to be involved in the sugar firms, which are the largest corporations in the western Kenya region.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado, who also chairs the agriculture committee of the Council of Governors, said the privatisation effort could not proceed without the input of farmers. He said farmers had been sidelined in the privatisation process and urged them to resist the process.

Mr Obado also said that county governments from sugarcane growing zones should be engaged constructively because they are the best representatives of the farmers' interests. The governor, who was a long-serving official of the Kenya Sugar Board, said the problems afflicting the sugar farmers could only be addressed by cooperation between the national and county governments.

"We have a duty as leaders to stand firm and protect farmers from suffering. They are the major sugarcane stakeholders and therefore need to play a fundamental role in any plan affecting the sector in order to have their livelihoods improved”, he said.

Mr Obado expressed concern over the rigid government policies which have made sugar industries to incur huge losses .The governor further took issue with private sugar factories which he said are paying farmers peanuts for cane delivered.

Deputy Governors Philip Kutima (Kakamega), Evelyn Arwasa (Narok) and Susan Kakai (Kericho) echoed the sentiments by the governors.They maintained that public interest must be given priority for the privatization exercise to succeed.

“Counties are closer to the people and understand the real issues affecting the sector. They are best placed to deal with the challenges bedeviling the sector,” Arwasa said.

Other leaders present were Privatization Commission chairman Henry Obwocha and commission executive director Solomon Kitungu.

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