A sugar manufacturers lobby has called for the lifting on the importation of cane ban that has led to a supply shortage and affected the operations of most millers.
Chairman of the Kenya Sugar Manufacturers Association (KESMA) Jayanti Patel said that one of their millers -- Busia Sugar Industries – has been heavily affected by the shortage owing to insufficient farming of the crop in their area.
Just last week, the management of the Busia Sugar Industry issued a notice to fire hundreds of workers due to crippled operations caused by the ban.
“The miller has requested that the sugarcane ban be lifted with regards to the raw cane for milling as they need to supplement their sources so as to be able to mill to their capacity,” said Patel in a letter written to CS Agriculture Peter Munya and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya.
According to Patel, the low cane supply is due to the poor uptake of crop farming in the Busia region.
“Busia Sugar Company is already working on enhancing sugarcane farming in the county. However, in the meantime they need a solution,” said Patel.
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Owing to a cane shortage in the county, sugar factories had resorted to sourcing the crop from Ugandan farmers who have a surplus.
In the letter, KESMA says that lifting the ban on importing the cane from Uganda will cause no conflict of interest as local supply is currently insufficient.
“The situation is only temporary and once enough cane has been developed and available, importation of the same will be unnecessary. Kindly take the necessary action to boost sugar production for the local market,” said Patel.
At the same time, the Western Development Initiative Association (WEDIA) – a sugar farmers’ lobby group – noted that the little cane available is on the low-lands making harvesting more problematic, thus the struggle by factories to access it.
“However, farmers have been encouraged to plant more cane as cane from outside can only be allowed in when there is a scarcity of raw material,” said WEDIA chairman Joseph Barasa.
In July, Agriculture CS Peter Munya banned brown sugar imports as part of measures to protect the local industry and curb cheap illegal sugar.
The orders further stated that the importation of raw sugarcane into the country is prohibited with immediate effect and that all applications for the importations of brown sugar shall be subjected to the sugar imports/export regulations soon to be gazetted.