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Bitter Christmas for sugarcane farmers as promised pay delays

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President Uhuru Kenyatta during Mashujaa Day
President Uhuru Kenyatta during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kakamega directed that growers be paid the arrears within a month. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Sugarcane framers are staring at a broke Christmas following revelations that the Sh2.6 billion pay they were promised may not materialise any time soon.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kakamega directed that growers be paid the arrears within a month.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who later promised that producers would get their money ‘before Christmas’, did not respond to a Sunday Nation follow-up on the pledge. He had pegged the timeline on completion of an audit on all farmers owed by State millers before payments commence.

Acting Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga, however, said the audit was yet to be completed meaning the Christmas pledge would not come through.

“We are still waiting for the audit by the National Treasury and the funds to be used to pay the farmers. That has not been completed and once we have the audit and the funds, then we can commence paying the sugar cane farmers,” Mr Boga said.

Attempts to get comments on the delay from Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge did not yield fruit.

The delay is not only bound to dampen celebrations of the farmers who are mostly based in rural areas where Christmas celebrations are traditionally centred, but also hit them hard in the month of January when school fees and several other obligations are expected to be met by them.

Mr Kiunjuri who made the Christmas pledge while unveiling a committee he had set up to vet the farmers afresh was keen to ensure that the right people were paid but now turns out to be the source of the long wait.

Debts owed by the sugar companies — Mumias, Sony, Nzoia, Muhoroni (also managing the defunct Miwani Sugar Company) and Chemelil — date back to 2014.

Chemelil acting managing director Gabriel Nyangweso, who could not confirm when the farmers would be paid, said the audit on the farmers owed by the miller had been completed in November and the two ministries (Treasury and Agriculture) was yet to verify the data.

“The verification audit was completed during the last week of November 2018. We are waiting for final concurrence from the ministries. No payment has been made. As to when payment will be made, I am not in a position to confirm,” Mr Nyangweso said.

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State-owned millers had following the president’s directive asked farmers to submit details including names, bank accounts, plot numbers and amounts owed to them raising hopes of being paid.

The suggestion to have the farmers paid directly into their accounts from the Treasury had even raised more hopes for producers who rushed to submit the details and began the wait for the sweet billions.Muhoroni-based farmer Jeremiah Omolo told Sunday Nation that he had been promised by Chemelil Sugar Company that he would receive his payments on December 20th.

“I had been to the factory so many times until we were told we would be paid this month. Nothing seems to be happening yet and my biggest worry is how we can face the January expenditures. It is a real let down,” Mr Omolo, who supplied cane to the miller in April, said.

The 16-member task force co-chaired by Mr Kiunjuri and Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya, governors Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Okoth Obado (Migori), as well as MPs and senators from the sugar growing areas and other industry players was expected to work within 30 days.

Meanwhile, sugar cane farmers in Busia County are increasingly becoming concerned over delays to launch Busia Sugar Industries at Busibwabo in Matayos Constituency.

Despite the Sh5 billion factory acquiring a licence to start crushing cane last month after many years of legal tussles, the miller is yet to roar to life.

The permit was issued last month after Deputy President William Ruto toured the facility and ordered Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri to ensure the factory starts operations.

This was followed by test runs by engineers from Kenya and India who gave it the green light to start operations.

Led by Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers chairperson Ibrahim Juma, farmers said delays to commission the facility have subjected residents to despair.

“We were very hopeful when Deputy President Ruto toured the facility recently and ordered BSI to be given a licence but we are yet to see any meaningful progress,” said Mr Juma.

Farmers demanded to know what could be holding back the investor and when the factory will be commissioned.

“If there is a problem we need to be told. Rumours has it that rival firm may have lodged yet another case in the latest bid to sabotage BSI operations,” he said.

Mr Juma said they are tired of unfulfilled promises over the commissioning of the facility yet their crop continues to dry and rot in farms.

“We need to be told the truth on this issue to forge a way forward because some farmers have fallen behind on their loan repayments.”

Joseph Barasa, chairman of the Western Development Initiative Association (Wedia), said the region needs the factory more than any other thing to turn around its economy.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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