Kenya: Light-gauge Railways for Sugarcane Transportation.


The government plans to roll out a light-gauge railway to transport sugar cane from farms to milling factories to improve the performance of the key economic sector.


The Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Mithika Linturi recently published a policy, the policy said that the road infrastructure in the majority of the cane-growing regions especially in Western Kenya remains inadequate, hurting the movement of raw material for milling.

“Many roads in the western region, in particular, are impassable, especially during heavy rains. In some situations where all-weather gravel roads do not exist, maintenance has been a handicap due to the use of heavy machinery or tractors for transportation of canes” stated the policy.


Currently, cane is largely transported by contracted parties but the day-to-day allocation of transport tasks is handled by the various transport departments of respective millers based on cane demand. Some of the factories have their transport fleets.

In most sugar-growing areas, the cost of transportation is based on four-kilometer or ten-kilometer bands from the respective mills. Millers, transporters, and farmers review this rate from time to time with the transportation costs averaging between 11-29 percent of the total cost of production per ton and varying from one cane zone to another.


The Agriculture Ministry said that using alternative transport mechanisms will address the challenges and boost the industry’s productivity.


“The national government will develop and implement alternative, cost-effective sugar-cane transportation system such as light-rail system” it stated.


Commercial sugarcane production is concentrated in the Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Coastal regions.


More than three hundred thousand farmers supply sugarcane to the millers. More than 94% of the sugar cane supply is by out-growers, the difference being supplied by the nucleus estates owned by the various milling companies.


There are sixteen sugar mills in Kenya with a total processing capacity of 51,450 metric tonnes of cane per day but the capacity utilization is about 56 percent, according to projections by the Agricultural Ministry.

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