KENYA – Unscrupulous sugar business in Kenya has picked pace amid high surging prices for the commodity due to an ongoing shortage that has pushed retail prices for a two-kilogram packet threefold compared to January.
A few days after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) got hold of a condemned consignment of 20,000 bags of sugar that was released back to market fraudulently, the sleuths have again busted illegally repackaged sugar in a story building in Magena, Kisii County.
According to area OCPD Charles Opondo, the syndicate repackages sugar from Tanzania and Uganda into sacks labeled top Kenyan Millers’ products such as Mara, Sony, and other local sugar mills, which are then distributed to businesses in the area.
The business is conducted in a filthy environment without any weighing machines. Opondo said they have already alerted Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) officials for investigations before subjecting the sugar to a lab test.
This comes as the government continues with a nationwide purge on contraband sugar alleged to have been sneaked into the country despite being flagged by authorities.
In the ongoing controversy surrounding the release of condemned brown sugar from government custody, senior government officials and two politicians from Central Kenya are said to have orchestrated the release of the consignment, which had been flagged by the KEBS in 2018 for missing expiry dates, Daily Nation reports.
The condemned sugar was to be converted into industrial ethanol, a process that was to be jointly supervised by KEBS and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), whose officials have also been suspended.
However, a suspect, cited by Daily Nation, reported that an order to release the consignment, which had been earmarked for destruction, was given.
The suspects claim that the process was hijacked by “powerful” individuals who did not follow procedures, thus exposing the deal. It has also emerged that the matter came to light after some officers in the deal felt they were being shortchanged.
When the sugar arrived in Nairobi, there was a ready buyer and it did not go to any of the four ethanol-producing factories in the country—Mumias Sugar, Kibos factory, Agro-chemical and Food Company Limited, and London Distillers.
It is not clear if the release was attributed to a ready market of cheap sugar that Kenyan Citizens are after, especially in the current situation or
The Kenya Economic Survey published in 2021 showed that Kenya’s sugar production capacity is staggering at an average of 603,800 tonnes annually against an average annual consumption of 1.04 million tonnes.
In the latest statistics by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the production of bagged sugar in the country dropped from over 49,000 metric tonnes in March to nearly 32,000 metric tonnes. A 36 percent drop in the space of a month.