Cane growers have raised alarm over the impending importation of 57,473 tonnes of sugar to cover a deficit of the commodity under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) safeguards.
They accuse the Ministry of Agriculture of failing to prevent the dumping of sugar into the country that is making local factories untenable, thereby impoverishing millions of stakeholders who depend on the sector.
Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association Secretary General Richard Ogendo while terming the move a scheme to illegally bring in sugar into the country, pointed out that the Comesa quota for 2020 was already exhausted, citing an October 31, 2020 notice issued by Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).
“This is a very clear indication that some well-connected individuals have already been identified to flood the Kenyan market with duty-free sugar imports at the expense of the ailing industry,” he said.
Mr Ogendo called on the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to ensure that any entity importing sugar is charged applicable duty as a way of cushioning cane farmers from cheap inflows.
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“The import will instantly depress the prices and we are going to court to block them from releasing the sugar into the market. Some fraudulent ministry officials are out to completely kill this industry,” he said.
According to a notice by KRA Acting Commissioner for Customs and Border Control Pamela Ahago, their review indicates that sugar imports from March 1, 2020 to October 2020 were 192,527 tonnes of the allocated quota of 250,000 tonnes.
“Consequently, there is a balance of 57,473 tonnes of sugar to be cleared under Comesa framework for the remaining period till February 28th 2021,” said the notice to staff.
The commissioner called on the agency’s officials to facilitate clearance of the consignments for companies that have imports from AFA.
On the other hand, she exempted 10 companies with a total volume of 10,000 tonnes lying in various container freight stations in Mombasa from the import permit requirements.
Kenya Association of Sugarcane and Allied Products Chairman Charles Atyang’ called on the Agriculture ministry to make public the list of sugar importers for the sake of transparency.
He said it was a concern that the importation is coming at a time Kenya has entered into an agreement with Uganda to bring in 20,000 tonnes of sugar.
“The government should also factor illegal sugar that got into the country through Busia border to avoid creating a glut and cause further damage to our economy,” he added.