Cane farmers in Western Kenya and surrounding areas can finally breathe a sigh of relief as Butali and West Kenya Sugar Mills have announced that cane crushing will resume in December 2023. After more than six months of factory closure, during which many farmers and workers struggled financially and had to resort to menial jobs to make ends meet, they can now visit company offices to have their mature cane approved for crushing. Normal factory operations will resume early next month.

During a meeting with farmers at Duka Moja, John Lucheli, one of the cane development directors, announced that cane crushing would begin in early December after a two-month closure. He informed farmers that the factory was already preparing the main boiler for cane crushing and that they were registering farmers with mature and clean canes for harvest. This necessary step would ensure that operations could start smoothly without any disruptions due to a lack of raw materials (cane).

The news of cane crushing resuming was warmly received by farmers and employees, who have been facing financial difficulties since June when milling operations were suspended due to inadequate cane supply. However, local leaders, led by Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako, have welcomed the resumption of sugar milling operations but called for an increase in prices per ton of cane. They argued that prices should be raised from Ksh. 5,800 for West Kenya and Ksh. 6,000 for Butali to over Ksh. 8,000, in order to ensure that farmers receive fair compensation for their crops.

Panyako also advised millers to consider increasing salaries for workers upon resumption, considering the rising cost of living. It is worth noting that several sugar milling plants in Western Kenya, including Nzoia Sugar, Olepito Sugar, West Kenya Sugar, Busia Sugar, Butali Sugar, Mumias Sugar, and Naitiri Sugar, have suspended their operations.

By Wycliffe Andabwa

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