The imminent collapse of Mumias Sugar Company, once the largest enterprise in western Kenya, is a huge blow not just to the region but also to the entire country.
There is an ominous cloud over Mumias and the sugar industry, which has been bedevilled by serious challenges.
Sugar firms in western Kenya, especially the government-owned ones, have been tottering on the brink of collapse for several decades.
The causes of this not-so-sweet story of sugar production include mismanagement, blatant looting and failure to modernise and revamp the industry.
Compared to others in the eastern and southern African regions, the cost of producing sugar in Kenya is quite astronomical, making it uncompetitive.
Without Comesa safeguards, there would not be much of a local sugar industry today.
The death of Mumias Sugar will be extremely painful for farmers who, though owed huge sums of money, still hope that it is possible to turn it around.
There is also the loss of direct jobs at the miller, and outgrowers and local businesses.
And although the KCB Group is justified in moving in to secure its stake in the firm, that sends worrying signals.
Firms that have been taken over by financiers to try and limit their losses and recoup whatever they can hardly ever bounce back.
Many will be hoping that the bank has not come in to oversee the final nail driven into the coffin.
It will be good if the receiver can breathe some life into the ailing firm. But then, Muhoroni, Nakumatt and other firms have not been resuscitated by receivers.
Mumias’s woes did not begin yesterday. This is the time to pursue those, including former managers and directors, who looted the firm to its knees. The culture of killing firms has to stop.
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