Farmers have accused Sarrai Group of outsourcing sugarcane processed at Mumias Sugar factory at the expense of the local community, whose crop is reportedly rotting in farms. The farmers who assembled in one of the farms in Mumias on Monday accused the Uganda-based firm of ignoring the plight of local farmers.
“As farmers, we have not been involved. When this company was started in 1966, it ws agreed that it was going to help us as locals through selling of canes and employment of our children,” Mr Didmus Mwangala, a farmer, told the press. “Sarrai has, however, killed the factory. They are buying sugar like onions and we cannot even tell where they are buying them. Our sugarcane is rotting in our farms.”
The farmers said initially the factory would help them pay school fees but that privilege is no longer available since Sarrai took over operations of the sugar miller last year. “Sarrai has not told farmers how they are planning to run this factory. We are wondering if we really surrendered this company to foreigners or what. We don’t understand,” he added.
The farmers said their children have turned to criminal activities due to lack of jobs. “We have taken our children to school and there are no jobs. Some have turned to criminal activities. We have grown cane yet we have nowhere to take them. Some of us are widows. Poverty is killing us,” Mary Makokha, another local farmer, said
The cane farmers also accused the Kakamega County Commissioner of colluding with Sarrai Group to bock them from agitating for their rights. Last week, Mumias Sugar workers planned peaceful demonstration, but were dispersed by the police despite having a valid authorization letter.
During the Thursday demos, the workers protested delays in salaries and accused Sarrai Group of importing workers from Uganda to work at the sugar miller. The workers said they have not been paid for months despite the Uganda-based company purporting to take over operations at the sugar miller.
“We want arrears to be paid immediately,” Mr Patrick Mutimbo, one of the workers, told the media. “We also want locals to be allowed to work in the company and Ugandans who were brought in by Sarrai to be deported back to their country. The few Kenyans working inside are working overtime and not being compensated.”
The new development comes two weeks after Sarrai Group was stopped by the Court of Appeal from operating the sugar miller until a case lodged against it is heard and determined. The court upheld 14th April 2022, ruling that directed the Ugandan firm to vacate the milling company premises.
Three appellate court judges said the applicants had demonstrated an appeal will be rendered nugatory in case the execution is not stayed during the hearing of the case. “In the upshot, the notice of motion dated 27th April 2022 is allowed to the extent only that there will be the stay of execution of the ruling dated 14th April 2022,” the judges ruled on Friday, September 23.
The ruling now means Sarrai remains locked out of Mumias Sugar premises. In the April ruling, the High Court judge Justice Alfred Mabeya in Nairobi cancelled the Sarrai’s 20-year lease to operate Mumias Sugar Company.