The extent of the financial woes that have continually bogged down State-owned sugar millers in the country is quite worrying.
According to a report by the national sugar industry stakeholders task force, the millers are currently indebted to the tune of Sh90.4 billion.
The amount includes outstanding loans, taxes, penalties and fines that are due to the government.
It is no wonder that sugarcane farmers have been living from hand to mouth for many years without receiving any payments for their crop deliveries to the millers.
While we support the government’s concerted efforts that are aimed at breathing new life into the firms, we must however emphasise that what is needed are long-term solutions.
It has been proven in the past that pumping billions of shillings into the ailing firms is not a viable solution, especially when there are no clear cut structures in place.
The task force report rightly found that the millers’ poor performance has continued for years with the government-backed loans going to waste as they are hardly serviced.
The millers have been bogged down by huge debts, poor governance, ageing and obsolete equipment and technology as well as labour related issues among other challenges.
What the sugarcane growers are yearning for is road map that will ensure that they are paid for their crop and on time.
We cannot afford to have a large segment of the sugar belt farmers living in penury all because of reasons that are beyond their control.
The State-oowned millers that owe billions are Miwani Sugar with has an outstanding debt of Sh27 billion, Muhoroni Sugar (Sh25.1 billion), Sony Sugar ( Sh6.2 billion) and Chemelil (Sh6.1 billion).
These are mind-boggling amounts that ought to have been properly utilized.
What annoys the poor farmers is that their outstanding payments are rarely on the list when it comes to clearing old debts.
The workers have also lamented that they have gone without pay for far too long.
It is our hope that following the gazettement of the stakeholders proposals, all these woes will be a thing of the past and that our farmers will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their labour.