KENYASony Sugar Company is scheduled to close for annual maintenance in the next few days, heightening fears of a sugar shortage in the country. Mumias Sugar and the privately-owned West Kenya Sugar have already shut down for a similar exercise.

Sony’s corporate affairs officer Zack Irungu said the maintenance will take one month.

“The management has not set the exact date for closure but it is definitely within the next few days,” he told the Business Daily.

The Awendo-based miller says it has about 6,000 tonnes of sugar in its stores, which is expected to quickly run out once milling stops. There are fears that unscrupulous traders may hoard the commodity to push up retail prices.

Some players in the sugar industry have faulted the trend where major millers close for maintenance around the same time.

“They should close at different times to protect consumers from exploitation by cheeky traders. But it appears even government functionaries prefer this trend because it enables them to make quick money from cheap imports,” said Luke Otieno, who has been working in the sugar sub-sector for the last 20 years.

Agriculture secretary Felix Koskei, however, said the government has put in place measures to curb shortages following the factories closure.

Importation of sugar will be controlled until the factories resume operations, the minister said adding that the State had closed down border points that smugglers use to import sugar.

“All our major border entries in the East African region will be manned 24 hours to ensure no contraband sugar is brought in.
“We want to protect the local sugar sector because we’ve been losing huge amounts of revenue in the past,” he said.

October 29, 2014;