KENYA – The sugar industry situation in Kenya is to become worse as the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation Workers Secretary General Francis Wangara has revealed that millers are on the verge of closing their factories due to a lack of raw material and will only rely on the imported sugar.
“Our mills will cease operations for three to four months. During this period, they will rely on imported sugar, and we want the government to give them a certain percentage to import,” said Wangara.
“This will mean that no worker is laid off during the period the mills will close down since the mills will have resources to pay salaries and effect factory maintenance.”
He has urged the government through the Sugar Directorate of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA to allow millers to be part of the importation of sugar into the country to forestall laying off workers.
Addressing a press conference in Kisumu, Wangara said they have already written to the Ministry of Trade and copied to the Ministry of Agriculture to have their request considered.
He added that the importation should not only be left to the Kenya National Trade Corporation (KNTC) but millers too should be allowed to bring in sugar into the country.
According to Wangara, the government had placed an order for 185,000 metric tonnes of sugar to be brought into the country to bridge the deficit, however; he noted the sugar has not been brought to KNTC and wants half of the tonnes to be given to the millers to import directly into the country.
The three months’ closure of the mills is to allow for the maturity of cane already in the farms. As Wangara pointed out, if the mills continue to harvest premature cane, then the situation will not be remedied.
Early this year, sugar millers were locked out of the duty-free sugar imports window by the Sugar Directorate following the situation witnessed in 2017 where millers abandoned buying sugarcane from farmers and concentrated on repackaging and selling imported sugar.
The Kenyan government has also passed the controversial financial bill 2023/2024, which will attract an excise duty of KES5 per kilogram of imported sugar.
Although the duty was trimmed off the financial bill for local sugar, manufacturers are also decrying the high cost of production.
Currently, the price for 2kg of sugar in the country retails between KES200 to KES 250. The prices of the commodity have remained high despite the importation of 93,000 tonnes of duty-free sugar, according to data from Sugar Directorate cited by The Star.
The data also indicate that the volumes imported between January and March were 47,000 tonnes more compared to a similar period last year.