The Kenyan government has excluded Mumias Sugar Company from the list of mills slated for leasing, leaving it under the management of the Sarai Group.

This decision comes despite President Ruto’s earlier threats to replace the investor due to perceived shortcomings in supporting farmers.

Last year, Dr Ruto declared the intention to seek new leases for Mumias, criticising the existing investor for alleged inadequacies.

The released list of mills earmarked for leasing comprises Muhoroni, Chemelil, South Nyanza, Nzoia, and Miwani.

The government is the single largest shareholder in Mumias with a stake of 20 percent at the once vibrant miller. The state was set to relinquish its shareholding once the miller is leased to a private investor.

Over the past decade, Kenya has aimed to lease these state-owned mills to private investors, facing recurrent legal obstacles from farmers and county governments.

The government holds significant stakes in various mills, such as 98.8 percent in Sony, 97.93 percent in Nzoia, 96.22 percent in Chemelil through the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), and 1.42 percent through the Development Bank of Kenya (DBK). Additionally, it owns an 82.8 percent stake in Muhoroni and 49 percent in Miwani.

Successful bidders will gain control over diverse assets, including factories, offices, machinery, huge nucleus farms, staff facilities, guest houses, schools and sports stadia.

This leasing initiative is poised to reignite power struggles within the cane industry, involving prominent players like the Rai brothers and various local and foreign investors.

Mumias, resuming milling activities after a six-month hiatus for cane maturation, had its assets leased to the Sarai Group in 2021, tasked with revitalising the collapsed sugar milling company following a successful bidding process.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org