KENYA – The Common Market for Eastern and Sothern Africa (COMESA) has granted Kenya a two-year extension to control imports of cheap sugar into the country. 

The decision, reached at the 20th Comesa summit, aims to allow the government in Nairobi to implement the much-needed sector reforms. 

Currently, Kenya is allowed to import up to 350,000 tonnes of sugar from the Comesa region to bridge the local deficit. 

Kenya delivered a comprehensive presentation to the Council of Ministers, articulating the rationale behind its request for an extension to safeguard the nation against the influx of inexpensive imports. 

The Kenyan delegation emphasized the necessity for additional time to gradually open up its market to imports.  

They highlighted that the domestic industry had not reached a stage where it could effectively compete with other players in the markets. 

They however noted a number of steps had been taken to address the challenges facing the local sugar industry.  

 The cabinet approved waiver of up to Ksh117 billion (US$760.5M) debt owed by public firms is one of the many steps that the government has recently taken to enhance production.  

This coupled with ongoing privatization initiatives and increased activity by local privately owned millers give confidence that Kenya is on the verge of overcoming obstacles and fostering a more robust industry. 

According to a source cited by Nation Africa, The Comesa council of ministers granted Kenya an extension of the sugar safeguard measures that will allow the country to enhance sector competitiveness in readiness for full integration into Comesa free trade regime. 

Kenya has been relying on the safeguards from Comesa against cheap imports since 2002 to protect its struggling local sugar industry.The sixth extension was in December 2022 and is set to expire in November this year.  

The fresh extension has averted an influx of cheaper sugar into the country, even as consumers continue to struggle under the weight of high sugar prices. 

However, Comesa has warned Kenya that the import controls are a temporary measure as they limit free trade of the commodity in the region. 

“Lets not forget that safeguard measures are meant to be temporary exceptions, in order to minimise the resulting distortion to free trade and regional integration, hence provisions on implementation timeframes and rules of application should be duly respected,” said Dr Mohamed Kadah, Comesa’s assistant secretary-general in-charge of programmes.