BY CORRESPONDENT,MIGORI,2ND DEC,2021-Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga is promising to institute far-reaching reforms in the sugar sector that will address the problem of shortage of the commodity locally.
Instead of importing sugar, Raila says he will ensure Kenya produces a surplus, enough to sell in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
“I will introduce proper reforms in this sector. We have a huge market called COMESA that involves many countries. Until now we are not doing well because our companies are performing poorly. But I will get these companies back and competitive in this market.” He said
The former Prime Minister says he will begin by addressing operational and structural challenges facing publicly-owned millers.
“State-run sugar companies have had problems for many years. Nzoia, Mumias, Miwani, Chemelil, Muhoroni, and Sony are classic examples,”
“For a long time, they have been synonymous with challenges ranging from unreliable equipment, lack of repairs, ballooning debt, and so forth.” He said
Raila argues public sector companies are supposed to be making a profit even as he maintained that “there is no need to have companies that keep registering loses.”
He noted that private-owned sugar companies are doing well and making a profit compared to those owned by the state. He attributed this state of affairs to mismanagement.
According to Raila, another problem facing state-owned companies is runaway corruption. Under his leadership, he says he will end the menace in all public institutions.
“You find that companies that mill our sugar have their stores full with the commodity. But at the same time, our market is full of sugar that has been imported to the country.”
“This means there is a problem of where to sell this sugar because of lack of market. Farmers also suffer. Then there are losses leading to huge debts by the local companies. Sony Sugar is almost insolvent because of this.” He charged
Currently, Kenya produces an estimated 300,000 tonnes of sugar a year, compared with annual consumption of 500,000 tonnes. The deficit is covered by strictly controlled imports from the COMESA region.
Raila who was in Migori vowed to stop this trend if he is elected president in next year’s elections. He said leasing, which is being proposed as a solution to these companies may not be enough. He says the government will do better and they can be run by the state and still make profits.
“You cannot always wait for the government to bail out these companies. If companies are run well, companies can be profitable, farmers are paid on time and there will be no need of leasing.” He said
“We want to end this trend where you only expect the government to come in after you have made losses. This attitude has destroyed most state-owned enterprises. I will make sure these companies perform better just like those that are privately-owned.” He vowed.
Raila says the state can expand factories like Sony Sugar to have a crushing capacity of over 50,000 to 100,000 tonnes per day.
“We can do it. It is possible, and that is the direction we can take to become competitive in the COMESA market.”
“That will employ so many of our people and will help us deal with poverty in this region.” He said