KENYA – Sugar production is poised for a rebound after Kenya’s Agriculture and Food Authority director, Willis Audi hinted on re-opening of sugar millers that had been ordered to shut about four months. 

Willis stated that AFA plans to lift the suspension that had been issued due to harvest of immature cane on December 1, though initial re-opening plans had been set for November 1. 

Kenya has a total of 16 sugar factories; both public and private. Public millers include Miwani, Chemilil, Muhoroni, Nzoia, and South Nyanza. Currently, Muhoroni and Mumias sugar are under receivership. 

Severe cane shortage in major growing region during the year however forced some millers to resort to crushing immature cane, a move that stirred the AFA into action leading to a ban on sugar milling activities.  

According to the national statistician, 15 sugar millers recorded a 26.6 percent drop in supply during the year to 4,112.31 tonnes from 5,600.97 tonnes supplied in August 2022.  

The decline in cane supply resulted in a significant drop in sugar output, averaging over a third in eight months, pushing sugar prices to a record high. 

As such, the government resulted to increased importation to plug the deficit. Overall, a total of 357, a total of 357,308 tonnes of sugar were produced in the first eight months compared to 527,309 tonnes in the same period last year.   

In a statement by the President, the government assured farmers that it had issued licenses for traders to import from outside the common market for Eastern and Southern Africa. 

“Now that we have ascertained that there isn’t sufficient supply of sugar in the Comesa area, we are looking elsewhere around the world and we expect fresh stocks of sugar to come into the country within the next one or two weeks,” said the head of state. 

Even as milling resumes, the sugar sector in East Africa’s largest economy still continues to face a myriad of challenges that have effectively lowered its productivity and competitivenes. 

Mismanagement of funds, debts, and political interference in major state-owned milling companies have been crippling the once vibrant sector. 

The Cabinet approved a plan to lease the five struggling public sugar companies to private investors even as it okayed the write-off of a Sh117 billion debt they owe. 

They owe the money in bank loans, tax arrears, and penalties, farmers’ and employees’ dues. They owe banks Sh65 billion, Sh50 billion in taxes, and nearly Sh2 billion in farmers’ dues.