A Tanzanian company has sought regulatory approvals to set up a factory in Kilifi County.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) Director General Alfred Busolo said Tembo Sugar Millers applied early this year.
“Things are still at a preliminary stage because they have to confirm potential and do a feasibility study, which might take time,” said Mr Busolo in an interview.
“There are no sugarcane plantations in Kilifi, so we believe they will need to have consulted about production,” he added.
If granted a licence, the Tanzanian miller will join seven other private sugar millers, including Kwale International Sugar Company Ltd (Kiscol), which is located in the coastal belt. Kiscol was built between 2007 and 2015 at an estimated cost of $200 million (Sh20 billion).
Other private millers include West Kenya Sugar, Kibos Sugar, Butali Sugar, Transmara Sugar, Sukari Industries and Kisii Sugar Factory.
Five State-owned millers — Chemelil, Muhoroni, Miwani, Nzoia and Sony — have been struggling amid plans by the Government to privatise them.
The only other listed Government-owned miller, Mumias Sugar Company, is also struggling despite several interventions and is now seeking a Sh4 billion bail-out to revive its milling plant and promote efficiency.
Most of the State-owned sugar manufacturers are not ready for the introduction of new competitive players even as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) safeguards are set to expire next year, opening the floodgates to cheap sugar from the region.
The protection from imports of the 19-member bloc has been in place since 2002, with Kenya requesting several extensions after it expired.
The sugar sector also continues to grapple with smuggling rackets.