Sugarcane traders suffer losses as Kenya ban bites

Not happy. A farmer looks at a pile of dry sugarcane which she had harvested to export to Kenya last week. PHOTO | DAVID AWORI

Traders and sugarcane farmers say they are counting losses worth unspecified billions as the Kenyan ban on the importation of Ugandan canes takes a financial toll on them.
Last month, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture , Mr Peter Munya, slapped a ban on the importation of sugarcane and brown sugar from Uganda, citing the need to protect its domestic sugar sector and illicit trade in the brown sweetener.
Mr John Ndindi, a sugarcane farmer, said he had planted sugarcane and hired labour to harvest it but all of it has dried up due to the ban.
Ms Angela Odongo, another farmer, said she paid a lot of money to transporters, who are truck owners in Kenya, and since the ban was enforced, she has not recovered her money.
“We have been hiring a truck at not less than Shs2 million for a single trip,” Ms Odongo said.
A mini-survey conducted by this publication last week in the districts of Busia, Namayingo, Bugweri and Mayuge unearthed several tonnes of cane rotting away as traders and farmers helplessly looked on.
Mr Godfrey Oundo Ongwabe, the national cross-border chairperson, described the loss as ‘huge’ and ‘abrupt’.
“It left traders and farmers who had harvested their sugarcane for export to Kenya without any alternative but to dump the raw material,” Mr Oundo explained.
The decision to ban Uganda raw materials has also affected the sugarcane farmers and traders in Kenya which is now suffering from an acute shortage of cane.
Busia Sugar Industry, which has been the major importer of Ugandan sugarcane to Kenya, has scaled down production and close to 200 workers are at risk of losing jobs.
“We are carrying out milling once a week, leaving the other four days for accumulation of raw materials. However, this is causing a lot of redundancy and we have no option but to lay off part of the labour force,” Mr Stephen Mula, the Busia Sugar Industry publicist said.
Mr Mula said the factory’s milling capacity was 3,500 tonnes of canes, which translates to about 100 acres of cane if operating at optimum.
In addition, Kenyan transporters, importers, farmers and off loaders are reeling due to lost opportunities as a result of the ban.
Ms Elizabeth Muyoka, 40, a Kenyan national who planted about 30 acres of sugarcane in Uganda, said the ban on the importation of cane had made it difficult for her to harvest and sell her cane.
Ms Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister of Trade and Cooperatives, recently told traders at the Busia border that they had been engaging the Kenyan government but talks had hit a deadlock after Nairobi claimed they had enough raw sugarcane to feed their local industries.
“It is very unlikely that Kenya will be importing our sugarcane because they said they had a bumper harvest and were protecting their farmers,” Ms Kyambadde said.
However, Mr Julius Maganda, the State Minister for the East Africa Community (EAC), said government had compensated traders who suffered losses in South Sudan and focus is now on compensating sugarcane dealers.
Mr Maganda, who is also the MP for Samia Bugwe South constituency, further advised that in case all avenues do not work out, farmers and traders can seek redress (for compensation) from the EAC business council or take the matter to the EAC Court of Justice.