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Cane farmers threaten demo over tax

28 February 2014, 11:18 Arap Yego

Bungoma - Sugarcane growers from across the country under their umbrella the Kenya National Sugarcane Growers Association (KENSUGU) have called for amendments to the Agriculture, Livestock and Food Authority Act 2013 (AFFA Act) which proposes the establishment of an umbrella body to coordinate agriculture activities around the country.

The more than 2 000 sugarcane farmers from across all the sugarcane growing zones in the country, who held a meeting at Bukembe trading centre within Bungoma County, said they will from next week organize massive demonstrations across the country to push for amendments to AFFA Act.

“We have not been heard through dialogue and consultations with the government so we are going to hold massive demonstrations across the country to push through the amendment,” said KENSUGU Organizing Secretary, Stephen Walubi.

The AFFA Act seeks to scrap several single commodity development organs such as tea, sugar, coconut, cotton, meat, horticulture and coffee with the claim that they have overlapping and contradictory roles, a move that has angered the sugarcane growers.

The Act will introduce a new powerful body, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority that will take over mandates of several parastatals among them the Kenya Sugar Board.

Walubi who read the statement on behalf of the farmers said the Act, unless amended will destroy the sugar sub-sector in the country.

“We will fight to the end as farmers’ representatives to protect the sugar sub sector. Farmers from our regions have no other cash crop but sugarcane,” said Walubi.

The farmers claimed they were never consulted when the Act was established until it was enacted into law.

The farmers complained that despite holding a number of consultative meetings with the leaders of the Agriculture ministry to push for the amendment, their views are yet to be taken and the amendment is yet to reach the floor of the house.

KENSUGU Bungoma County chairman, Nato Meleme said the sugar sub sector is sensitive and should not be lumped with other agricultural sectors.

He said the sector is self financing through the sugar development fund and has a clear dispute resolution mechanism through the sugar arbitration board.

“The sugar sector should not be disturbed especially at this point in time when it’s going through turbulent times,” said  Walubi.

The farmers challenged members of parliament from sugarcane growing areas to unite and push for amendments to the bill to ensure the sugar sector is protected.

“We urge the MPs from sugarcane growing areas to lobby their colleagues to support the amendment when it’s brought to the floor of parliament,” he said.

The sugarcane farmers further called for the scrapping of 16 percent tax charged on sugarcane transportation saying its overburdening farmers.

“Millers have been charging 16 percent tax on sugarcane transport per tonne making transportation of sugarcane from the farms to the millers to be very expensive,” said a farmer, Benedict Wafula.

Wafula added that the tax burden has been pushed to the farmers by the millers who were supposed to bear the cost.

“Farmers are always deducted a lot of money and end up earning peanuts after waiting for over two years for their crop to mature,” complained Wafula, who urged the MPs from sugarcane growing areas to bring a bill to parliament that will abolish tax on sugarcane transportation.

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