The 14 member Task Force co-chaired by Governor Wycliffe Oparanya of Kakamega County and the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri had its final public sitting on 30th March 2019 at Kisumu and when mention was made of Zoning farmers to Millers the meeting nearly ended prematurely as the farmers present did not wish to hear that narrative and protested loudly
The reality that the Sugar Task Force must face is that it is the poorly managed, corruption ridden, debt ridden Millers with national government full ownership or partial ownership that are bend on pushing for the re-introduction of sugar cane farming zoning as the only means to enable them survive. The fact that the
Sugar Task Force was set up at the behest of President Uhuru Kenyatta and through his Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri does not therefore mean it can bulldoze recommendations which are archaic, unconstitutional also as to protect state owned or partially state owned uncompetitive millers who cannot survive the stiff competition from private millers.
Kenya is a capitalist free economy where the constitution protects free enterprise. The free economy means that if the state ventures into private enterprise then it must compete with every other player in that sector without using legislative manipulation to tilt the economic, industrial playing field in favour of state enterprises.
The whole gamut, sphere of the agricultural sector is driven by the free economy. Take the dairy industry for example, New KCC though a state corporation competes with all other private dairies in the sector with Brookside a private milk processor being the dominant actor.
Nobody has suggested that there be zoning of dairy farmers as to who supplies milk to New KCC and Brookside or other milk processors. In the seed industry though Kenya Seed Company in Kitale is a state corporation nobody has ever suggested that the seed farmers should be zoned so that only Kenya Seed contracted farmers can grow and supply the seeds in Trans Nzoia County and no other seed company, dairies like Western Seed should also operate in Trans Nzoia County. The same applies to the tea sector, the coffee sector. The farmers choose to whom to supply their tea or coffee.
So what is the stupidity, impudence, archaic mindset of the failed state owned sugar millers that they can in the 2nd decade of the 21stCentury, enslave sugar cane farmers to them, who they harvest their sugar cane, sell the sugar processed and do not pay for the cane delivered by the farmer? The sugar cane farmers must be left free as birds to choose to who to supply their sugar cane. Any legislative fiat through Zoning will be unconstitutional as it stinks of slavery, fettering the farmer’s freedom to do what he pleases with his sugar cane.
The Sugar Task Force must not release any recommendations that belong to the last century like Zoning, for they’ll not work and they’ll be challenged in the courts and declared null and void. The taxpayers monies will have gone to waste if the Task Force recommendations become a rubber stamp for perpetuating incompetence, uncompetitiveness opaqueness, that have dogged the sector until all state owned millers are now on their death row awaiting their last rites of burial.
Yes it is only full privatization, 100 percent privatization of the state millers that will make them compete in the free market of not only Kenya but East Africa. The farmers of the region will only gain importance, get fair returns on sugar cane farming when there is fair competition among millers and all millers will then appreciate that without sugar farmers no sugar mill can exist. The millers will then treat with utmost care the sugar farmers as the suppliers of the most critical raw material to sugar milling, sugar cane.