KENYA – Kenya recorded 67% growth in sugar imports in January compared to the corresponding period in 2018 as local sugar production continue to plunge, reports Business Daily.

According to Data from the Sugar Directorate, the country imported 36,674 tonnes of sugar in the month compared to 21,982 tonnes shipped into the country last year.

The directorate said that most local sugar companies continued to record decreasing production in the month, which declined by 26% to 46,313 tonnes from 62,819 tonnes in January 2018.

“Total sugar production in January 2019 was 46,313 tonnes compared to 62,819 tonnes achieved in the same period last year, representing a drop of 26 per cent,” says the report.

According to the report by the directorate, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) members supplied 21,248 tonnes into the country, Uganda 6,516 tonnes while imports from other parts of the world amounted to 8,911 tonnes.

However, despite the increasing import volumes, there was no implication on the consumer cost amid a decline of ex-factory price.

The average monthly factory price for January declined to US$40.72 (Sh4,082) from US$42.6 (Sh4,271) per 50 kilogramme recorded in December last year.

“Generally, ex-factory sugar prices have been on a steady decrease since August 2018 when a high monthly average price of Sh6,024 (US$60.09) per bag was attained,” said the directorate.

In 2018, kenyas sugar imports stood at 284,169 tonnes down from 989,619 tonnes the previous year representing 71% decline owed to improved local production during the period.

Subsequently, low production pushed down the commodity stocks to 6,954 tonnes from 15463 tonnes across all millers observed in January 2019.

This comes at a time when the some millers including Mumias, Olepito and Kwale International Sugar Company closed their operation due to challenging operating conditions.

In its efforts to revitalise the country’s multibillion sector, the Kenyan government has been investing millions and embarked on intervention to save the industry.

Recently, the government proposed sugar zoning as part of its regulations – which is now under review by the Agriculture Ministry’s Sugar Industry Taskforce – but has however, received significant opposition from most millers and farmers

Kenya is allowed to import 350,000 tonnes of sugar from COMESA to bridge the annual deficit.