Kenya is poised to lease all state-owned sugar mills by July of this year, despite facing legal challenges that cast uncertainty over the process.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi asserts that the leasing process is underway and remains unaffected by threats from influential groups attempting to obstruct the initiative.

Mr Linturi, undeterred by alleged interference from sugar cartels, highlighted their futile attempts to disrupt the process through legal means.

“I am aware of cartels attempting to hinder the process through court cases; I want to caution them that their efforts will be in vain,” warned Mr Linturi.

The High Court recently intervened by issuing an injunction against an international tender that invited bids for long-term leases of state-owned sugar companies.

Justice Chacha Mwita, responding to concerns raised by Martin Nyongesa Barasa, a concerned citizen, suspended the tender initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Principal Secretary on January 16.

Mr Barasa criticised the abrupt decision, highlighting the absence of public consultation in the decision-making process.

The list of mills slated for leasing includes Muhoroni, Chemelil, South Nyanza, Nzoia, and Miwani. Kenya has endeavored to lease these state-owned mills to private investors over the past decade, facing recurring legal challenges 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 assume control of diverse assets, including factories, offices, machinery, substantial nucleus farms, staff facilities, guest houses, schools, and sports stadiums.

The leasing initiative aims to enhance efficiency and productivity in the sugar industry through private sector involvement.

gandae@businessdayafrica.org