Nzoia Sugar MD says company needs capital injection; speaks on farmers’ issues

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Nzoia Sugar Company Managing Director CPA Michael Wanjala Makokha

Nzoia Sugar Company needs capital injection, according to Managing Director Michael Wanjala Makokha, an issue that will be addressed in a leasing plan. Makokha Wanjala has stated the importance of bringing in an investor who can guarantee much needed investment and a financial lift, “It’s good to say openly that the Company needs cash injection, we need lots of resources to facilitate its modernization.”

The MD, who was speaking during an interview on West FM’s Suala Nyeti on Friday, said the last major renovation for the Company happened in 1989, and it’s high time more works are done to ensure it’s up to par with the current technological and mechanical standards. The idea of leasing state owned sugar companies to investors for a period of 25 years has drawn criticisms, with the political class leading the charge. Leaders have come out to oppose the plan, saying leasing for that long is akin to selling the Companies, and that there has been no public participation. They’ve also said the leasing price is meagre, “They want to lease Nzoia Sugar for Kshs 1 billion. Nzoia has land, about 12,000 acres, assets, infrastructure, surely it must cost more than that,” said Kwanza MP Ferdinand Wanyonyi during a past interview.

However, Makokha has defended the process, saying during talks on privatization Kenyans were involved in looking for a solution and even now industries have been involved in the leasing plan, citing the occasion when Agriculture CS Peter Munya toured Nzoia Company. “The leasing process has been done openly and saying it costs only Kshs 1 billion is to miss the point,” he said, adding that when renting property you don’t pay the same as when buying it, thus it isn’t a true reflection of the collective wealth. He stated that people shouldn’t see a problem in a process that hasn’t been concluded yet.

On concerns of workers who feared they may be sent packing, the MD revealed an interim management committee will oversee a smooth transition. He said any investor will be required to first consider the skill set on offer locally, before seeking expertise elsewhere, “Even if one wants to bring in labour from outside the country, they have the tall order of proving that skill set isn’t totally available locally.” He allayed the fears of workers, and urged them to continue working hard, noting that many tasks can’t be handled by the investors and everyone’s input will be needed.

With farmers complaining of delays in payment and lack of urgency from the Company to collect cane, the MD said the issues will be dealt with and that under his leadership the farmer is prioritized. He said what existed before was harvesting that ensured cane was cut in different areas at a go, but that has changed now. “Now we have to cut cane by mapping four areas, dividing them into North, West, South, East. Because of this, farmers have felt they are facing delays,” he said. He stated that now the Company seeks to concentrate on one area at a time, “The concentrated strategy ensures resources are in one zone and are well utilized.”