Millers with mature cane will be allowed to resume milling for a short period of time which may offer consumers a short reprieve in the wake of the high cost of sugar in the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture says the move is aimed at safeguarding the earnings of farmers who have mature sugarcane and are unable to deliver for processing following the closure of the milling exercise last month.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Harsama Kello said the resumption in areas with pockets of mature cane will strictly be supervised by the sector regulator- the Sugar Board.

“I am announcing today that we are allowing millers whose regions have mature cane that they can now resume milling for a short period of time under the supervision of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA),” said Mr Kello.
The PS, however, cautioned millers against harvesting cane that is not mature, arguing that stern action will be taken against those who violate the directive.

Milling of sugar was stopped on July 27, 2023, as the government took drastic action to save farmers from losses occasioned by the harvesting of immature cane.

Mr Kello said the government is keen on ensuring robust cane development in the country to end imports of the commodity.

AFA chairman Cornelly Serem said farmers have had to endure huge losses before the regulator stepped in to save them through closure of milling.

Mr Serem said millers have been harvesting as young as 10-month-old cane to the detriment of farmers, who lose a lot in terms of tonnage.

“The harvest age had dropped from 18 months to 10 and this had serious ramifications on farmers income because of low tonnage,” said Mr Serem.

The officials spoke on Tuesday during a stakeholder meeting in Nairobi that was attended by millers, farmers unions and government officials.

Farmers are paid based on the weight of their cane as Kenya is yet to implement quality-based payment that anchors on the quality of sucrose in the sugarcane.

A cane shortage in the country has seen the price of sugar hit a historic high of Sh225 a kilo with Kenya relying on imports to bridge the deficit.

Millers, especially those that have some pockets of mature can had requested the government to allow them to resume milling for a short period.

“We would want to be allowed to mill the cane that is mature, we have some farmers who have some that is ready for harvesting,” said Mr Raju, chief executive Kibos Sugar.