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Local farmers decry cheap sugar imports

By John Shilitsa | May 3rd 2020
Farmers march in Kakamega town during a recent protest. [File, Standard] Farmers march in Kakamega town during a recent protest. [File, Standard]

Cane farmers in Kakamega County have decried the smuggling of cheap sugar into the local market.

They fear the cheap sugar imports could result in a slump in the local market, further hurting the struggling sugar factories.

Latest statistics released by the Sugar Directorate reveals that imports increased to 86 per cent in first quarter of this year compared to a similar period last year.

Between January and March, the sugar imports hit 118,065 tonnes compared to 63,496 tonnes in same period last year.

Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers has urged the government to intervene and have unscrupulous individuals engaging in illegal imports arrested and prosecuted.

“The activities are tantamount to economic sabotage because by bringing in cheap sugar, they are risking the survival of our already battered domestic sugar sector,” said Simon Wesechere, the federation’s deputy secretary-general. 

Earlier, Kakamega County Assembly Deputy Speaker Leonard Kasaya and Isukha South ward representative Farouk Machanje termed the imports alarming.

According to Mr Kasaya, sugar barons were taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic crisis to smuggle into the country excess sugar.

He urged Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Agriculture counterpart Peter Munya to take action against the culprits.

According to Machanje, Kenya ought to tread carefully because the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has already indicated its unwillingness to extend a moratorium on imports from partner States as a way of protecting the local industry from unhealthy competition.

Kenya was granted a two-year extension of the sugar safeguards by the Comesa until February 2021. 

The decision, which offers relief to Kenyan millers who face competition due to cheap sugar imports, was arrived at during the 20th Comesa summit in Lusaka.

Kenya wanted an extension of the safeguard for a maximum of two years, a request some countries supported while others opposed.

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