OPINION: Please release sugar task force report!


mwangi kiunjuri
Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri in a past interview. [Photo/Courtesy]

Exactly one year ago (7th November 2018), Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri unveiled a task force.

In his words, the Sugar Reforms Task force was to find lasting solutions to perennial issues in the sector.

To spice it up, unlike other task forces he chose himself the co-chair, a role he would do with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.

I had my doubts. This was not the first time such a team made up of people ‘up to task’ was being formed. It brought together governors, members of parliament, private sector players as well as state officers.

Their mandate was simple: collect views of players in the sugar industry; farmers, millers, consumers and traders. With this they were to come up with permanent solutions.

Formed as a result of President Kenyatta’s direction, Kiunjuri told the press: “The task force shall work within 30 days with specific deliverables.’’

This ignited optimism among sugarcane farmers in the country across the belts. Finally, their woes would be addressed. State-owned millers also beamed with glee knowing all too well that a solution to their struggles would be found. Private millers consulted the best of strategic management consultants to prepare their views.

Indeed the task force albeit with delays got to work. They sought views in the fashion designed by the terms and reference set out in the gazette notice.

To sweeten it, they roped in former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to help win trust from sector players. The farmers poured their hearts out. Teary tales of a crop that fed, housed and schooled their children now a bother and a failure.

Their (farmers) earnings too little and delayed, the farmers wasting away due to delayed harvests.

For the state millers the machines that clouded the horizons with white smoke signalling good fortunes in the 80’s long dead. Factory yards turned scrap metal yards. Receiver managers seconded to attempt to revive them, accused of dipping their hands in the empty cookie jar.

The tales, pointing to a collapsed industry that needed the solutions of the taskforce as soon as yesterday.

By end of March this year (2019), Kiunjuri announced that the task force had finalised collection of views. They would then retreat to write a report before presenting it to President Kenyatta.

The farmers have been waiting since then. No word from Kiunjuri, no word from Oparanya — the two co-chairs of the task force.

Farmers’ months later are disillusioned. They say once again, it seems the government this time led by Mwangi Kiunjuri and Wycliffe Oparanya have taken them for a ride.

On a number of occasions, journalists have attempted to find out from the CS the fate of the report. Nothing! No indication has come from him.

The silence of political leaders; MCA’s, MP’s and governors from the sugar belts is too loud. Opinion leaders in the sector, the Kenya Federation of Sugarcane Farmers have raised concerns. Their voices drowned by the silence of the ministry of agriculture.

The farmers from Nzoia, Mumias, Miwani, Muhoroni, Chemelil and Sony were expectant. Some still are. They hope that CS Kiunjuri will at least before the end of this year find time.

Find time out of his busy schedule convening and attending anti-BBI press conferences in parliament to release the report. That he will find time away from angling to be the next big thing in Mount Kenya politics to release this report.

Sugarcane farmers are waiting waziri… still hoping that you will release this report. Even if in soft copies.

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Story By Joseph Bonyo
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