If you are from Western Kenya then you are aware that once there was this great company, Webuye Pan Paper Mills, the largest Miller in the region (at least back then) that used to create thousands of jobs annually, both directly and indirectly.
Now it’s no more! The once great company is nothing but a skeleton of its former self, in a once beautiful Webuye town, now looking like a ghost town.
Forget the government’s reviving plans that occupied News headlines sometimes last year around November. It was all political gimmicks. But that’s a story for another day. I will remember to tell you the first time I visited Webuye and how the visit almost ended tragically.
Then here comes Mumias Sugar, another big company that used to produce enough sugar for our country and still have surplus for the COMESA, creating jobs for thousands of Kenyans and at the same time generating a substantial amount of revenue into the public coffers. It also used to produce its own electricity from bagasse hence helping reduce overhead costs tremendously (don’t ask me how it got itself in the current situation then).
Growing up this is where most of us went for school field trips.
Just touring the Mills, listening to the instructors walk us through the various parts and departments that constitute the sugar processing process, as we licked sugar (it was allowed, so long as you don’t leave with any) used to be such a thrilling experience. And I almost forgot the enormous fish pond that my classmates and I were told, its main function was actually not to rear fish but to test whether the water needed for the processing was free from contamination.
If the fish in the pond died or manifested any abnormal signs, then the water from the great River Nzoia would be disallowed until further tests are contacted.
This a company I’ve admired all my life and I was even looking forward to one of these days sending there my resume, and I may even be lucky to work there.
To be completely candid with you, Mumias Sugar is very important not just to the people of Western Kenya, but to the whole country.
Look at the current sugar situation in the country and compare it to them days when Mumias Sugar was still running on its feet.
I am well aware nowadays sugar has started creeping back to the shelves but still with not such a friendly price. Most of it is imported, at the expense of Mumias Sugar and her sisters, Nzoia, West Kenya, Muhoroni, Chemelil, Transmara, Kwale, Kisii, Sukari, Butali, just to name a few.
I know some of you are going to say you don’t care just because you are not from Western Kenya. Let me not call you a fool. Mercy be upon you! You don’t know what you talking about. Yesterday was Webuye Pan Paper, Today Mumias and who knows about tomorrow! Maybe that favorite company of yours.
Mumias sugar is in this state because of various reasons, some of which are poor management, theft (we all know some of the suspects but I’m naming nobody, not today, not tomorrow. Unless I wanna end up like that poor man Lubya. The late Ronald Lubya, the former Mumias Sugar Company Secretary), and lack of government support too.
It’s so embarrassing to learn that now we have resorted to importing sugar from countries such as Uganda! Not that I have anything against Uganda or them exporting sugar into our country, if anything I admire them, especially for their resilience, and with the integration of the East African bloc as a free market, they have a right to sell their sugar or anything for that matter here in Kenya.
Also let’s not forget the fact that some years back Uganda’s sugar industry had completely collapsed, which I’m told was caused by the irrational actions of the Late Idi Amin.
The people of Uganda for decades had to get used to life without sugar. From personal experience, my own uncle’s whenever they visited, they preferred sugarless tea. I guess to them the idea of sugar was still a foreign concept (let mama not hear me say this about her folks. I don’t what trouble).
I don’t know what’s going on with this giant sugar company. Whether all it’s problems are politically related or not, all I know is that I don’t want it to die.
One day I want my children and my grandchildren to see this company, still standing tall like those eucalyptus trees I used to see in Webuye back in the day, still operating with its chimneys smoking to the sky. I don’t want them to grow up just reading stories about Mumias Sugar like we doing now about Webuye Pan Paper Mills.
“Once upon a time in the land of King Nabongo, was this company called Mumias Sugar…”