Sugar smuggling rife in Busia as cache of contraband destroyed
Some traders are having a field day in smuggling in cheap sugar from Uganda. The illegal business is being executed in broad daylight.
The sweetener is packed in 50kg bags and sneaked into the country on motorbikes through porous borders in Alupe, Marachi and Sofia.
The same is then packaged in small quantities and sold locally at a cheaper price. Kenya closed its border with Uganda in March as a measure to prevent the spread of the infectious coronavirus.
Despite the closure of the border, contraband still finds its way into Kenya.
In July, Agriculture CS Peter Munya imposed a ban on the importation of both raw cane and cheap sugar from across the border.
Last week, a section of locals decried that smuggling in the border town of Busia had gone a notch higher and called on the police to up their game with a view of combating the illegal business.
On Tuesday, a cache of illegal goods worth millions of shillings was burnt, a function that was presided over by County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri and County Commander John Nyoike.
Some 18,000 rolls of bhang, illicit brew, cosmetics, gambling machines, a bale of second-hand clothes, paper bags, 36 packets of sweets laced with drugs were among the goods that were destroyed.
The illegal goods were confiscated between June and August this year. Some owners of the goods were arrested and arraigned while others escaped.
To combat smuggling in Busia, the county commissioner observed that it requires goodwill from residents who should volunteer information to the police that can lead to the interception of the goods.
Kanyiri continued, "Let traders do genuine business that can help the government get tax."
Officials of the sugarcane farmers' lobby attributed the influx of cheap sugar from Uganda to existing loopholes at the Busia One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) and porous borders.
They now want stringent measures put in place to curb sugar smuggling and save the local industry.
Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) Secretary-General Richard Ogendo underscored the need to stem the increasing smuggling through the Busia border post.
“There are so many loopholes at the Busia border which unscrupulous traders are taking advantage of to smuggle goods into the country,” said Ogendo.
Unlike Uganda which has installed digital scanners that screen every good that goes to their country, Kenya has none on its side.
This, Ogendo said, makes the illegal trade at the border thrive. Ogendo’s sentiment was backed by the national secretary of the Kenya Association of Sugarcane and Allied Products (Kasap) Peter Odima.
“The local market is getting flooded with cheap sugar from Uganda, in fact, some are even repackaging using branded bags of one of the local sugar manufacturers,” said Odima.
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