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State should sort out mess in sugar industry

By STANDARD | December 30th 2014

What ails Kenya's sugar sector is simply greed, which is condoned by the Government of the day as scarce jobs are lost and poverty augmented through the activities of a few well connected individuals. When will these selfish games, which amount to economic sabotage, end?

Now the management of Mumias Sugar has gone public crying foul about an influx of cheap sugar imports into the country with the potential of wrecking its business.

Other millers are affected too as the authorities including the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) look on with folded arms.

Mumias alone is capable of crushing 8,000 metric tonnes of sugar daily at 70 per cent operation capacity. Operating at optimum capacity, Kenyan millers together would satisfy the domestic demand and produce more to generate the much-needed foreign exchange.

By allowing a few well-connected nabobs to flood the market with cheap sugar, the Government is helping kill an industry that sustains thousands of Kenyans through direct and indirect employment. That in turn wreaks havoc on security, which is the core job of the State.

The more the rate of unemployment rises, the more security is compromised by idle youths looking for something to occupy them. Such are the youths that become easy targets for recruiting agents of Al-Shabaab and other ill-intentioned groups.

Kenya would be a net exporter of sugar if the Government got its act right and cracked down ruthlessly on illegal importers who have turned the sweet commodity into a cash cow.

The coastal sugar belt, with climatic conditions conducive for faster growing of sugar cane, must not be left to lie fallow.

The rise of Kwale International Sugar Company Limited (KISCOL) from the ashes of the once-vibrant defunct Ramisi Sugar Company (RSC) was a welcome gesture.

But even as KISCOL totters to life using the latest irrigation technology, plans for similar projects on a larger scale in the Tana Delta to help the local sugar industry come of age foundered with no explanation as greedy people brought in cheap sugar.

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