KENYA – In 3 months from January, Kenya has had a sharp increase in sugar imports, moving to 93,000 tonnes against 46,000 in a similar period last year to cool off high retail prices of the commodity, which has not been the case.

Data from the Sugar Directorate show that the average price of sugar is Sh157 a kilogram, up from Sh150 in January, citing the rising cost of a shortage locally.

On supermarket shelves, a two-kilo packet of sugar is now retailing above Sh300 on average, from Sh289 in February, Business Daily reveals.

The prices increased despite the government opening the first window of importing duty-free sugar as part of a wider scheme to lower the high cost of goods and help households to cope with the rising cost of basic commodities.

The government opened an import window in December that would see traders ship in 100,000 tonnes of sugar outside of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa region to curb an imminent shortage in the country that had pushed up the cost of the sweetener to Sh312 for a two-kilo packet.

The local production of the commodity has been affected by a reduced cane supply to factories due to poor rains in the previous seasons.

The diminishing supply that has resulted in a shortage of cane has seen millers grapple with the little available, pushing the price of a tonne of the commodity from Sh4,584, which is the recommended price by the sugar directorate, to Sh5,250.

Both private and state-owned mills are struggling to mill due to an acute shortage, with most operating at less than 30 percent of their installed capacity.

The State has also allowed the Kenya National Trading Corporation to import a further 200,000 tonnes duty-free.

Legislators urge the State to implement sugar task force report

Considering that importation is only a short-term measure, legislators from sugar-growing areas in Western Kenya have petitioned the government to hasten the review and implementation of the sugar task force report and revitalize state-owned millers.

The task force report recommends enhancing sugar marketing and trade by increasing production, reducing the cost of production, proper coordination of sugar importation, ending smuggling and dumping, and improving packaging and traceability.

Other key recommendations include the re-introduction of the sugar levy, the privatization of public sugar mills to enhance their efficiency, and the enactment of the Sugar Act.

The sugar levy will be charged to consumers to raise the revenue needed to assist farmers to develop their sugar cane.

The task force also proposed strict compliance with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regulations and outlined a raft of reforms needed to increase the sugar sector’s productivity.

The legislators led by Governors Kenneth Lusaka (Bungoma), Paul Otuoma (Busia), Ochilo Ayacko (Migori), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega), and Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) have called on the government to engage strategic partners to fast-track the resumption of smooth operations in the companies.

They also want the government to find a long-lasting solution that will guarantee cane farmers a steady market and prompt payment for their produce.

The county bosses also lamented the heavy debts that public millers continue to carry despite promises by previous regimes to write them off.

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