KENYA – The Government of Kenya has approved a Kes600 million (US$3.9M) funding to the sugar sector in a bid to bolster local sugar production and cushion consumers from soaring prices. 

The initiative aims to cultivate fast-maturing cane varieties with high sucrose content by 2027, aligning with the expiration of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) safeguard. 

Jude Chesire, the director and head of the Sugar Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), emphasized that the government’s measures are already yielding significant changes in the industry.  

Despite facing a small deficit of about 200,000 tonnes last year due to drought and other factors, Chesire highlighted ongoing efforts to increase cane cultivation areas. “The government is providing loans to farmers to expand hectares under cane, with the goal of achieving self-sustainability in sugar production by 2027,” he stated. 

Speaking in Kisumu during the 2nd Sugar Industry Innovation Symposium, Chesire discussed the impending expiration of the COMESA safeguard. He expressed confidence that the measures being implemented would make the Kenyan sugar sector competitive with other COMESA member states post-safeguard. 

Chesire announced that, starting in 2026, cane farmers would receive payments based on sucrose content. Fast-maturing cane varieties have been distributed to farmers, with the government allocating Kes 600 million (US$3.9M) for sugar research institutions to develop new varieties. 

Despite state mills being equipped with sucrose content testing machines, Chesire acknowledged the challenge of farmers adapting to the new varieties.  

He urged county governments to sensitize farmers on the benefits of embracing high-sucrose-content varieties, which would allow factories to produce more sugar with fewer raw materials. 

Kilion Osur, Secretary of the Kenya National Sugar Federation of Farmers, applauded the move to base payments on sucrose content, envisioning significant benefits for farmers from molasses, bagasse, sugar, and other by-products. 

Chesire also announced plans to lease out state mills, including Miwani, Chemelil, Muhoroni, Nzoia, and Sony Sugar. The leasing process, set to be publicly announced in late December or early January, follows parliamentary approval for debt write-offs and settling arrears, allowing farmers to benefit from their hard work.  

The leasing process will adopt a request-for-proposals model, inviting experienced individuals in the sugar industry to bid. 

The Sugar Industry Innovation Symposium, themed “Towards Self-Sufficiency,” provides a platform for sector players to showcase their innovations, contributing to the overall growth and competitiveness of the Kenyan sugar industry. 

The news comes shortly after COMESA granted Kenya a two-year extension on import controls as the country seeks to stabilise the local sugar industry.  

The government has also seen lifting of the ban on millers instituted as a result of crushing immature cane amid the increasing demand of the sweetener in the country. 

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