KENYA – Sugar millers will from October pay farmers based on the quality of cane as opposed to the current weight system following the procurement of Sh1.6 billion testing units.
But the grading equipment, which will be purchased from Brazil, Germany and South Africa, will be used after the regional market liberalisation allowing duty free sugar from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) states.
The deadline of Comesa safeguards that have been protecting Kenya from cheap sugar imports over the last decade will expire next month.
The change in pay formulae that would see sugarcane farmers earn based on sucrose content rather than tonnage is one of the conditions that the Comesa secretariat issued to make Kenya’s sugar industry competitive.
Last week, the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) invited bids for the construction of laboratories and civil works for the testing units.
“We are bringing in nine units for cane-testing purposes and we hope farmers will benefit from the new mode of payment,” said director-general Alfred Busolo.
He said the nine units are expected in the next eight to 10 months and that preparations are underway to ensure they are set up as soon as they arrive.
The Sugar Directorate, formerly Kenya Sugar Board, had already started pilot projects in Nzoia and Sony sugar factories.
The quota on sugar imports will end with the industry having met only a handful of Comesa requirements.
Other conditions put in place by the bloc include diversification of millers’ income streams, privatisation of State-owned firms as well as reducing production costs.
This comes at a time when Uganda is demanding full access of its sugar to the Kenyan market.
In November last year, the Uganda Sugar Manufacturers Association accused Kenya of unfairness, arguing that it was unfair for countries in the Southern African Development Community and Comesa to export the sweetener to Kenya while blocking imports from East African Community member States.
Kenya’s sugar production remains low at 500,000 tonnes per year against a consumption of 800,000 tonnes.