Kenya sugar unions threaten to boycott sugarcane deliveries to push for better pay

KENYA – Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (KESGA) has threatened to stage a boycott of sugarcane deliveries next week to push for better returns, a head of a National Assembly Agriculture Departmental Committee public hearing on the Sugar Bill 2022.

KESG Secretary General Richard Ogendo said the sugarcane pricing committee, which should regulate cane prices, has not met to determine new prices. We shall announce a boycott of cane deliveries next week to push for better returns.

Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Associations (KNASFA), Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (KESGA), and Smallholder Sugarcane Farmers Association of Kenya (SSFAK) have demanded that sugar millers pay Ksh10,100 per tonne of delivered cane.

Instead, three leading sugar millers have only increased their pay by Ksh400, added to the initial Ksh4,800 price for every ton of sugarcane delivered to the factories.

The unions, together with the cane growers, have termed the increase negligible and an insult. However, the prices were welcomed by political leaders from the Western Region, with Mumias East MP Peter Salasya pushing for zoning.

“In that sugar bill that is coming, I want zoning in it and we shall fight all cartels in the sugar sector,” the MP tweeted.

Saul Busolo, KNASFA chairman, KESG Secretary General Richard Ogendo, and SSFAK chairman Stephen Narupa also want a review of the cane pricing committee membership to give farmers more say arguing, in its current form, the committee was a millers’ lapdog.

The cane pricing committee has seven members, three from the government, two farmers, and two millers.

The Sugar Bill 2022, sponsored by Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe proposes reforms such as the gazettement of the sugar sector regulations including import rules, amendment of the Agriculture and Food Authority Act, and Crops Act in line with the Constitution.

It also proposes strict compliance with the Comes regulations and outlines measures needed to increase the sugar sector’s productivity, and a review of the taxation regime to enhance investor incentives.

Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Authority show that Kenya produces 600,000 tonnes of sugar annually. The country is allowed to bring in 300,000 tonnes of duty-free sugar every year from The Comes states to meet the growing demand that currently stands at over 900,000 tonnes.

In February alone, Kenya imported 22% more sugar, averaging 28,609 MT compared to 22,722 MT in January 2023, with 80% of the imports being from India and Madagascar.

The retail average sugar price for 1 kg has had a slight reduction in pricing, selling at Kshs 147 from Kshs 155 recorded in the previous month, the Sugar Directorate highlights.

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