Kenya: Mumias Sugar – Farmers Accuse Sarrai of Shunning Locally-Grown Sugarcane

Mumias — Farmers in Mumias have accused Sarrai Group of outsourcing canes to be processed at Mumias Sugar factory, leaving sugarcane grown by locals to rot in the farms.

The farmers, who assembled in one of the farms in Mumias on Monday, accused the Uganda-based firm of shunning their produce further compounding their financial woes.

“As farmers, we have not been involved. When this company was started in 1966, farmers agreed that it was going to help us as locals through selling of canes and employment of our children.

“Sarrai has, however, killed the factory. They are buying sugar like onions and we cannot even tell where they are buying them. Our sugarcanes are rotting in our farms,” Didmus Mwangala, a farmer, told the press.

The farmers said initially, the factory helped them to take their children to school but that is no no longer the case since Sarrai took over operation of the sugar miller last year.

“Sarrai has not told farmers how they are planning to run this factory. We are wondering if we really surrendered this company to foreigners or what. We don’t understand,” he added.

The farmers said their children risked turning to criminal activities due to lack of jobs.

“We have taken our children to school and there are no jobs. Some have turned to criminal activities. We have grown canes and we have no where to take them. Some of us are widows and we have tried to plant canes but we have nowhere to take them. Poverty is killing us,” Mary Makhoha said.

The farmers also accused the Kakamega County Commissioner of colluding with Sarrai Group to deny them an opportunity to agitate for their rights as cane farmers.

They cited the disruption of a planned peaceful demonstration despite having validly notified authorities.

During the Thursday demos, the workers protested delay in salary payment and accused Sarrai Group of importing workers from Uganda to work at the sugar miller.

The workers said they have not been paid for months despite the Uganda-based company purporting to take over operations at the sugar miller.

“We want arrears to be paid immediately. We also want locals to be allowed to work in the company and Ugandans who were brought in by Sarrai to be deported back to their country.

“The few Kenyans working inside are working overtime and they are not being compensated,” Patrick Mutimbo, one of the workers, told the media.

The new development comes two weeks after Sarrai Group was stopped by the Court of Appeal from operating the sugar miller until a case lodged against it is heard and determined.

The court upheld an April 14, 2022, ruling that directed the Ugandan firm to vacate the milling company premises.

Three appellate court judges said the applicants had demonstrated an appeal will be rendered nugatory in case the execution is not stayed during the hearing of the case.

“In the upshot, the notice of motion dated 27th April 2022 is allowed to the extent only that there will be the stay of execution of the ruling dated 14th April 2022,” the judges ruled on Friday, September 23.

The three judges were Jamila Mohammed, Ole Kantai and Asike Makhandia.

The ruling now means Sarrai remains locked out of Mumias Sugar premises.

In the April ruling, the High Court judge Justice Alfred Mabeya in Nairobi cancelled the Sarrai’s 20-year lease to operate Mumias Sugar Company.

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