By Victor Raballa and Caroline Mundu
Mumias Sugar Company has made sabotage and cane poaching claims against its competitors, accusing them of being behind the recent torching of 8,000 acres of its nucleus plantation.
Acting Managing Director Isaac Sheunda said it was suspicious that the incident happened just two days before the company could resume its milling operations.
Addressing the press during the annual general meeting at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu, Mr Sheunda said the company had previously faced three serious incidents of arson, which has further crippled operations of the once vibrant miller.
Following the incident, Mr Sheunda said they were forced to sell the cane to the neighbouring millers, who requested for the same.
“We only took 4,500 metric tonnes of the cane for milling to extract syrup and were forced to sell the rest since the sugarcane since they could not have stayed for more than 48 hours,” he said.
He pointed out that the canes were taken to Nzoia, West Kenya, Kibos Sugar, Busia Sugar Industry and Butali Sugar Company.
“Unfortunately, some of the millers have not paid us and we had to take molasses in return as a compensation for the canes,” he said.
The company reported Sh15.1 billion loss in the financial year ending June 2018. It is technically insolvent to the tune of Sh6 billion after its total liabilities of Sh21.6 billion surpassed its Sh15.7 billion assets
The Mumias chairman Kennedy Ngumbau Mulwa says the company is on a mission to reduce its bloated workforce from 1,680 to 465 as it seeks recovery.
“This is a major step and hope to save millions of shillings and help revive the once giant sugar miller for the benefit of the residents and the country at large,” he said.
The company also announced to the shareholders their plans to get rid of their non-core business like the airstrip, golf course, schools and water bottling company as they concentrate on sugar milling.
“We have also rolled out plans to commercialise the 2,200 housing units which will go at the market rate as we look forward to generating more income to run other operations of the company,” said Dr Ngumbau.
The miller has in recent years received billions of shillings in bailout from government.
It has blamed its losses on shortage of sugarcane for milling.
The firm also attributed the steep rise in losses on impairment charges to the plant and machinery to Sh4.9 billion from Sh2.6 billion earlier.
“The acute cane shortage significantly hindered the plant throughputs with cane deliveries dropping by 32 per cent to 283,435 tonnes, compared to 417,347 tonnes in the last financial year,” Dr Ngumbau told shareholders.