KENYA – Kenya is on the brink of a sugar shortage, with prices expected to rise in the coming months, primarily due to a severe deficit of sugar in the COMESA region.
Consequently, companies licensed to import sugar into Kenya are struggling to secure adequate supplies from outside the country, exacerbating the shortfall.
The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) acknowledged the possibility of a sugar crisis as imported volumes failed to meet the projected levels.
The shortage in the COMESA region was attributed to an extended period of drought that hampered the development of sugarcane.
According to Cornelly Serem, AFA’s chairperson, Kenya annually imports up to 282,000 metric tons of sugar from COMESA member states to supplement local production. However, licensed importers have so far delivered only 85,000 metric tons.
As a result, Kenyan consumers may face increased sugar prices, with one kilogram of sugar currently retailing between Sh220 and Sh250, and two kilograms ranging from Sh420 to Sh450.
This situation has arisen as the AFA extended the ban on sugar milling until December 1. The extension aims to allow sugarcane to mature, but it also rules out any short-term prospects of higher sugar production from local industries.
The decision to maintain the sugar milling ban was made during a meeting with stakeholders in the sugar sector. It was intended to safeguard the interests of sugarcane farmers and ensure sufficient sugar supply.
Kenya Sugar Millers Association chairperson Jayanti Patel emphasized the need for compliance with the AFA directive, noting that there is currently insufficient mature sugarcane available in Western Kenya and the Nyando belt.
However, the AFA has offered a lifeline to factories with mature sugarcane stocks by inviting them to submit formal applications to continue milling.
Government takes action on state-owned sugar mills debts
Meanwhile, President William Ruto announced that the government has waived Sh117 billion in debts owed by state-owned sugar companies. This move is part of preparations to lease out the mills to private players.
He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to agricultural sector reforms, emphasizing their importance in economic transformation, industrial development, income generation, and the supply of raw materials for manufacturing.
The government has been promoting agricultural reforms, including the use of improved seeds and fertilizers to boost food production and lower living costs.
President Ruto highlighted the significance of transforming agricultural productivity, advocating for value addition to increase competitiveness and income for farmers.
The government’s efforts also included supporting food deficit farmers to become surplus producers through access to affordable finance for inputs and agricultural extension services.
Plans are underway to lease idle land owned by public institutions to private investors as part of the land commercialization initiative.
The situation surrounding Kenya’s sugar industry continues to evolve, with the government taking steps to address the impending sugar shortage while implementing broader agricultural sector reforms.