By TIMOTHY MBAYA
Migori County government has asked tobacco farmers in Kuria to change to sweet potato farming to avoid being frustrated by local tobacco companies.
Speaking at Nyabohanse town in Kuria West, CEC for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Valentine Ogongo said there was no ready market for the crop in the county at the moment leading to the frustration of farmers.
Ogongo said the cost of tobacco production had become so high with little returns to the farmers after making sales.
“Most farmers used to venture into tobacco farming because there was ready market from the crop but the situation is not the same at the moment,” Ogongo said.
To aid the farmers, Ogongo said the county government had plans to construct a potato processing plant in the region to come to the rescue of tobacco farmers.
“Make sure your farms are ready to plant potatoes and be ready to supply the processing plant,” Ogongo said.
He was speaking after tobacco farmers staged a demonstration in Nyabohanse town against Mastermine Tobacco Company in the region that had allegedly not paid them for a period of four years.
The tobacco farmers are allegedly demanding shs 2.5 billion from the company.
The tobacco farmers stormed the company’s collection center at Nyabohanse center and threatened to take control of the facility.
Joseph Chumbe, a farmer, asked the County government help the farmers get a court order against the company as its management was allegedly planning to sell its assets in the region and move without paying the farmers.
“We are going to apply for a court order barring this company from selling any of its property till all farmers are paid.
Chacha Mwita said they had pegged all their hopes in the county government to rescue them as most farmers languishing in poverty despite working hard on their tobacco farms.
But the Agriculture CEC said the County government will not sit back and watch as tobacco companies were frustrating local farmers.
“We are not going to allow a few companies to toy around with farmer’s money on our watch and that is why I am here today,” Ogongo said.
The chairperson of the Agriculture Committee at the Migori County Assembly and West Sakwa MCA Nestori Owiyo demanded the company pays the farmers as it was in breach of the law for not paying farmers.
There was no official from the company to independently verify these claims as all doors at the Nyabohanse premise remained shut.