Troubled Busia Sugar Industry turn to ‘DCI’ officers to fight cane farmers

DP William Ruto, Busia County Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and BSI Managing Director Ali Ahmed Taib in November 2018 when they attended the commissioning of an administration block at Busia Sugar Industry, the DP said at the time that the company was to create a ready and stable market to 50,000 farmers from Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega and Siaya counties. That it was to crush 3,500 tonnes of cane per day and produce 100,000 tonnes of sugar annually. BSI is today illegally importing cane from Uganda through brokers

The letter addressed to the BSI Managing Director Ali Ahmed Taib in part reads: “The biggest problem here is that the miller has chosen to buy the raw material from brokers for as little as Kshs. 3, 500 instead of the government recommended producer price of Kshs. 4, 040 per tonne.”

Part one

By The Weekly Vision Investigations Desk

Trouble has erupted at the Busia Sugar Industries (BSI) Company between contracted farmers and the management over the hiring of plains clothes police officers allegedly from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to harass and intimidate farmers.

The crux of the matter is that the miller has failed to harvest their crop preferring to deal with brokers who supply the company with the raw crop from illegal sources. The farmers are up in arms against the BSI management accusing it of abusing the power of its colossal financial resources to harass, intimidate and stop them from fighting for their rights after they wrote a protest letter that was copied to the government officials, political leaders and stakeholders documenting their woes.

Cane farmers drafted a petition listing a number of complaints against BSI managers addressed to the Senate, the National Assembly and other top government officials, a copy of which is in our possession

They have also drafted a petition to the Senate, the National Assembly and other top government officials, a copy of which is in our possession. The petition was signed by their leaders, who claim they are being targeted by the alleged DCI operatives from Busia County.

At stake are vast swathes of sugarcane farms with the raw material estimated to be more than Kshs. 1 billion. The alleged DCI operatives are intimidating cane farmers accusing them of plotting to burn down the sugar factory. 

Farmers are accusing the miller of trashing their contracts and failing to harvest their sugarcane for processing at the factory located at Busibwabo market in Matayos sub-county, leaving them with the over-age and rotten cane, they are also faced with unpaid production costs having taken loans. 

The letter addressed to the BSI Managing Director Ali Ahmed Taib in part reads: “The biggest problem here is that the miller has chosen to buy the raw material from brokers for as little as Kshs. 3, 500 instead of the government recommended producer price of Kshs. 4, 040 per tonne.”

It goes on: “We invested heavily in the production of this crop under contract with BSI, but he is now dealing with sugarcane thieves and smugglers from Uganda to make a profit at our expense yet we stood with him in his endless legal battles trying to stop construction of this sugar milling facility.

The letter was copied to agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) Chief Kello Harsama, Busia County Governor Sospeter Ojaamong among others.

A senior DCI official at the Busia county office who declined to be named said that their office was not officially involved but could not discount the fact that “local sugar politics were at play and could be vicious because of the colossal amounts of money involved.”

The farmers clearly state in the letter that they were demanding for the miller to meet his contractual obligations with his contracted farmers and stop dealing with the cane brokers and smugglers that could easily lead to the collapse of the only factory in Busia County like the country’s giant miller Mumias Sugar did a few years ago because farmers stopped cane delivery over a Kshs. 3.5 billion owed.

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