On Wednesday 13th June, 2018 the County Commissioner of Bungoma in press briefing confirmed that Government Agencies Carrying out a crackdown on illegally imported sugar had raided Rai Paper at Webuye and found 59,000 bags of sugar within the premises of the company and allegedly the sugar belonged to West Kenya Sugar Company.
There are obvious questions that West Kenya Sugar Company Ltd and Rai Paper both owned by the Indian Rai Family have to answer. Rai Paper Manufactures or so we thought paper products? How come they are storing sugar on their premises? Did the County Government of Bungoma, Ministry of Health give a health certificate that paper manufacturing premises be used to handle sugar for human consumption? How hygienic can that be? Why have the County Government of Bungoma Public Health Officers who routinely shut down schools for lack of toilets not cracked down on Rai Paper Manufacturer for engaging in peddling, storing, handling sugar when they were licensed to manufacture paper.
The Rai Family stronghold on Western Kenya’s economy must not give them a licence to play games on the people of the region. How do they expect thepeople of the region to trust their products from West Kenya Sugar if they are meddling completely contradictory business premises to store sugar – paper manufacturing premises that is not in food production to store and handle sugar for human consumption and that is not in the first instance produced in West Kenya Sugar factory but imported.
West Kenya’s importation of sugar whether legally or otherwise is in conflict with the interest of the farmers of the region. The imported sugar depresses local cane farmers returns as it has happened with one tonne dropping from Kshs. 4,000 to less than Kshs. 3,500. West Kenya Sugar Company cannot convince any right thinking farmer that by importing sugar it can at the same time be advancing the local sugar cane farmers interests. Which drought has Western Kenya region witnessed to justify importation of sugar? Why is West Kenya Sugar Company building another factory in Naitiri if there is scarcity of sugarcane? Or are these factories West Kenya Sugar Company is building just camouflages conduits of using the region as a staging ground to justify obtaining licences to import sugar into the country.
Yes, Western Kenya region needs industries like West Kenya Sugar Factory for creation of jobs and to create agricultural economic activities like sugarcane farming but that should not give them a licence to undertake activities that are questionable. Elected leaders of the region must relentlessly interrogate the trade, industrial practices of those who invest in the region to ensure that those trading, investing, setting up industries operate squarely within the law. That they do not bring the region into disrepute.
If it is importing sugar legitimately for any shortfall why shouldn’t Nzoia Sugar or Mumias Sugar Company which are public companies not do that exercise? Why private entities that can’t be easily held accountable?
The National Government Agencies handling the now out-rightly sugar scandal must not leave any stone unturned to unravel what the sugar found in Rai Paper was doing there and what its quality is and whether tax was paid for it. Sugar in Kenya is an elective politics tool that is used to finance every election cycle in Kenya. Now that the elections are over Kenya is yet in another post-election spilling of the beans as to how the politicians continue to kill the local sugar industry for personal greed through importation of illegal sugar.
The Rai Family business nexus to the first family makes it next to impossible that they will be held to account for any transgressions in the now raging sugar scandals. The sugarcane farmers of Western Kenya will continue being the victims of the illegally imported sugar as the prices of their sugar can only continue sliding downwards as the Kenya sugar market is flooded with imports of poisonous or otherwise sugar.
Is it possible in this state of anarchy in the sugar sector that the dying or dead public sugar companies of Nzoia and Mumias can be revived, turned around? We submit not at all.
Western Kenya region must rethink its economic future seriously and transition in the long term from the sugar sector as Brazil and other countries have the best economies of scale to produce sugar at the cheapest cost and ship it anywhere on the globe at cheap cost than those countries with no economies of scale in sugar production.