KENYA- Sugar production is set to normalize following the Agriculture and Food Authority’s (AFA) decision to lift the ban it had imposed on milling operations in the country.
AFA is a Kenyan agricultural regulatory body with a sugar directorate that conducts market surveillance to ensure sugar millers adhere to trade practices, sugar industry legislations, and regulations as well as registration of sugar millers.
Earlier in July, AFA had suspended cane crushing for four months to prevent harvesting and subsequent crushing of immature cane- a practice that had started to take root in the country’s sugar-growing zones.
“Apart from lowering the quality of the sugar on our shelves, harvesting the crop before maturity deprives farmers of the opportunity to maximize their profits due to the lightweight, “cited Michael Arum, coordinator of the Sugar Campaign for Change supporting the AFA directive.
Despite having the directive in place affecting sugar millers in the Western and Nyanza regions, Sony Sugar, Transmara, and Sukari Industries with mature cane, were allowed to continue crushing although they had to bridge the deficit through imports.
The new agreement comes after the completion of the sugar census to determine the actual s sugar cane on the farm as promised by the directorate on July 14.
“We have reviewed your request based on the cane availability survey we undertook on September 19, 2023. We hereby grant approval for sugar milling resumption at a low crushing capacity,” the director stated.
The agreement further clarified that millers are allowed to continue their milling operations and can their sugar cane for a period of 15 days per month at a maximum capacity of 600 tonnes of cane per day.
With the ban lifted, Kenya’s sugar production which had significantly declined is expected to rebound, albeit at a slower pace as factories work with farmers to reach their normal milling capacities.
“Milling operations had reached less than 25 percent of the installed capacity utilization, leading to a drastic decline in sugar production in the past six months,” noted Jude Chesire, acting director of the Sugar Directorate.
Cane shortage is however expected to continue affecting many millers particularly those who have not made enough investments in cane development.
The government has however vowed to be strict on zoning regulations which limit sugar millers to only buying cane from farmers in their respective zones.
Charles Atyang, chairman of the Kenya Association of Sugarcane and Allied Products (Kasap), has however transferred some of the cane shortage blame to the government.
“The truth is the National Government has never factored substantial amounts to develop the sugar sub-sector in the National Budget for the past four years. This has frustrated the efforts of cane development, especially by the five State-owned millers,” said Atyang.
Hon. Cornelly Serem, AFA Chairman has however promised to support millers who invest in cane development and promised protection of their investments.
In a meeting with sugar millers earlier this month, Serem noted that the regulator was keen on tightening laws against cane poaching to further protect millers from losing their investments as a result of the vice.