Sugarcane millers and farmers from the Western belt have protested illegal sugar imports. The stakeholders have claimed that the region has been turned into a dumping market for illegal imports from neighbouring countries, especially Uganda.
They want the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) to come clean on reports about collusion between unscrupulous businessmen and some authorities in the illegal trade.
Nzoia Sugar Company chairman Joash Wamang’oli said importation of sugar into the country started way before opening of the customs window. The government released custom import licenses last Friday.
It is unfortunate that those importing sugar want to kill the local industries. At this rate, we will not have money to pay our farmers,” he said.
Mr Wamang’oli urged AFFA to protect local farmers and millers from the adverse effects of the unlicensed cheap imports.
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The authority is mandated to ensure that the country imports sugar which is commensurate with the deficit.
Wamang’oli regretted that cartels have taken advantage of the porous border to flood the country with illegal sugar imports.
He added, “We are calling upon AFFA to urgently move in to protect our farmers.”
He made the remarks as farmers from Nzoia, Butali and West Kenya sugar growing zones said they have incurred huge losses due to the illegal trade.
They said the illegal trade was akin to paying Ugandan farmers and further impoverishing local growers who are already facing numerous challenges afflicting the sugar industry.
The stakeholders noted that the sugar imports are in Bungoma, Mukenya, Masbrago, New Adatia, Kiminini, Kitale, Charangani and Jaralam.
Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati, who is a member of the Sugar taskforce, warned that opening the sugar importation window could cause prices of the commodity to fall to unprecedented levels. Mr Wangamati urged Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to intervene and cushion farmers from incurring losses.
At the same time, Kenya National Alliance of Sugarcane Farmers Chairman Saulo Busolo said the irregular imports were hurting the troubled sugar sector.
He urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to consider giving a stimulus package to the industry to boost production.