Mumias Sugar Return Ignites a Price War in Cane Harvesting

The company has increased the price per a tonne of sugarcane to attract more farmers

Mumias Sugar Company opened its doors on Friday, 1st December, 2023 to receive cane from farmers as operations resumed at the giant sugar miller after years of silence. In two weeks’ time, the company is expected to start releasing sugar into the market, with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and other agencies set to conduct compliance tests.

Mumias Sugar management has already recalled 787 former employees with more staff expected to report on Monday in the sugar packing department. According to the manager in charge of operations and administration, Mr Stephen Kihumba, more former employees will be engaged on a need basis with more opportunities expected to open up in the Cogen and Ethanol plant.

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Mr Kihumba said the miller will be paying cane farmers weekly. He urged farmers to plant more sugarcane and only harvest mature cane that have attained 16 months old to yield the right weight and sucrose content to realize maximum benefit. The company has set the price for a tonne of sugarcane at Ksh6,050 which has seen other millers adjust their prices to keep up with new competition.

Kabras-based West Kenya Sugar Company Ltd and Butali Sugar Mills as well Naitiri Sugar in Bungoma recently set the price per tonne at Ksh6,050 on resuming operations after a five-month closure to allow enough cane stock to mature.

Meanwhile, the Agricultural and Food Authority (AFA) has directed Mumias Sugar to start crushing 2,500 tonnes of sugarcane per day for a period of two months up to the end of January. AFA will then advise whether to increase the crushing capacity or to continue with the current rate after a survey to determine the amount of sugarcane in the region.

According to Mr Kihumba, Mumias Sugar Company has a capacity to crush 8,400 tonnes of sugarcane per day, which will be realized once the miller becomes fully operational.

Mumias Sugar has been clustered to operate in the Lower Kakamega region together with Kibos Sugar Company and Olepito. “We believe we can give more support to our farmers because we are sure that the cane we receive is coming from within our region, there is no transfer of cane to other regions,” he added.

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He said they have planted sugarcane on 1,400 hectares of the 3,400 hectares’ nucleus land owned by the company. “I wanted to do 1,800 to 2,000 hectares this year so that by next year I will be able to cover it all. But what I can say is that currently we have sufficient seed cane from the 1,400 hectares of nucleus to be able to plant the remaining part of the nuclear estate,” he added.

Cane development is key for Mumias Sugar and it is necessary to get back farmers on board. Farmers had already given up, due to frustration, due to huge debts and after years of closure. “We tell them it is time they go back to their farms; they will earn better, they will be paid promptly and they will get the sufficient support that they may so require,” Mr Kihumba said.

The company will also increase the freight in terms of tractors to help in transporting sugarcane as more farmers are signing up. (Additional reporting by KNA)

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