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Cane farmers want privatization of state-owned millers hastened

The five state-owned mills lined up for privatization include Chemelil, Muhoroni, Nzoia, Sony and Miwani/FILE – Sony Sugar

KISUMU, Kenya, Aug 6 – Cane farmers have renewed calls for the hastening of the privatization of state-owned millers saying the move will alleviate harsh economic conditions cane producers are now facing.

Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation Allied Workers General Secretary Francis Wangara on Tuesday said state-owned mills are on the verge of collapse hence the need to quicken the process being overseen by a Privatization Commission.

Wangara said five state-owned mills will collapse if the government fails to implement the National Sugar Industry Taskforce report that was recently handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He said strategic investors are ready to take up the mills and are only waiting for the commission to give them a go ahead.

“I heard that the committee requires a longer period, it doesn’t make sense, because there are people outside there waiting to buy these factories,” he said.

The union official said workers are unable to get their pay at the state-owned mills with some having stopped milling almost five months ago.

He asked President Kenyatta to make a statement over the report to pave way for privatization.

“It is unfortunate that the taskforce completed its work and up to now we have not seen its implementation. It looks like it is hanging in the office of the President who is supposed to give a final decision,” he said.

He noted that the delay is causing suffering among farmers and workers who are not able to sell their cane while workers are going without their wages.

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However, Wangara said the government should pump in more funds to the mills to rejuvenate them if privatization is scheduled to take longer.

“If the government want to take more time before they privatize these companies then they should pump in money to keep them running as they take their time,” he said.

Last month, Wangara announced that workers in the state-owned mills were demanding Sh1.2 billion in salary arrears.

The five state-owned mills lined up for privatization include Chemelil, Muhoroni, Nzoia, Sony and Miwani.

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