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Mixed bag of fortunes for sugar cane farmers

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Mumias a Sugar Company,
Mumias a Sugar Company, which is operating below capacity. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

This year presented a mixed bag of fortunes for sugar cane farmers and millers as the sector was bedevilled by a host of factors.

However, the biggest announcement for farmers came when President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Ministry of Agriculture and the Treasury to clear an outstanding debt of more than Sh2.6 billion owed to more than 10,000 farmers.

While the order is yet to be effected after Agriculture Ministry recently concluded an audit to weed out unscrupulous growers, stakeholders are optimistic that settling the arrears will mark a major milestone in resolving sugar cane farmers’ problems.

Sony Sugar Managing Director Bernard Otieno said the move will strengthen the millers’ balance sheets as they struggle to cater for other pressing needs and remain afloat.

“State millers now have the advantage of the financial assistance and focus on factory maintenance to enable them to operate effectively and efficiently,” he said.

He noted that Sony needs Sh250 million to conduct comprehensive factory maintenance.

“The last time we fully serviced four machinery was four years ago because of financial constraints,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Chemelil Sugar Company’s Gabriel Nyangweso has also raised concerns that worn-out machinery parts have greatly affected their cane crushing capacity and contributed to high production costs.

Operations at other public millers, including Mumias, Nzoia and Muhoroni are in a sorry state, while Miwani Sugar Company, which was put under receivership in 2000, appears to be on its death bed.

But Kenya National Federation of Sugar cane Farmers National Treasurer Stephen olé Narupa is optimistic President Kenyatta’s order will revive the sector.

“The President should follow up and ensure that farmers are paid promptly to enable them to prepare their land ahead of the planting season,” he said.

Mr Narupa said it is unfortunate that hundreds of farmers continue to suffer, with some even dying without receiving their money.

While the national government has committed to revive the once-lucrative sector, some farmers are sceptical that the newly formed sugar task force will resolve the sector’s underlying problems.

The task force co-chaired by Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, is expected to come up with permanent ways of tackling the problems in the sector.

But Mr Narupa, faulted the government for not involve farmers’ representatives from all the 13 licensed millers.

“The factories are experiencing unique challenges which can be understood only by farmers from the specific regions,” he said.

It is inconceivable for the government to exclude the critical players while coming up with rules which are supposed to govern farmers while going about their business,” he said.

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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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