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Western MCAs raise alarm over continued illegal sugar importation

By Mireri Junior | Aug 3rd 2020 | 4 min read

Ndivisi (Bungoma) MCA Martin Wanyonyi, Turbo (Uasin Gishu) MCA Ramadhan Juma and their Marachi Central (Busia) counterpart Patrick Obuya address the press at Webuye town in Bungoma County. [Courtesy]

A section of Western leaders have raised an alarm over the continued illegal importation of sugar into the despite the government’s ban on the same

Speaking in Webuye town, Bungoma county on Monday, 10 MCAs from five sugar belt region that includes Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu and Vihiga counties urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to direct the Interior Ministry to reinforce its border patrols in order to weed out cartels who are still benefiting from the illegal trade at the expense of local production.

The leaders urged the Interior Ministry to deploy officers at the Busia/Malaba border points, which they said had been taken over by sugar cartels.

Ndivisi (Bungoma) MCA Martin Wanyonyi challenged the government to ensure the ban is enforced to protect local farmers.

 “We thank the Government for banning the importation of sugar. However importation of sugar is still ongoing through back door,” said Wanyonyi.

Turbo (Uasin Gishu) MCA Ramadhan Juma urged the government to put strict measure and penalties for illegal importers to curb the vice.

“If strict penalties are put in place for the would-be offenders, they would not engage in the vice, the government should move in and enforce these laws,” said Juma.

Marachi Central (Busia) MCA Patrick Obuya, however, urged local farmers to take advantage of the ban and plant more cane for local industries.

“It is high time farmers took advantage of the government’s ban increase local cane production,” he said.

The government on July 2, announced the ban of all brown sugar imports in a bid to protect local production and farmers.

“We have suspended all brown (table) sugar imports into the country with immediate effect. We have also suspended pre-shipment approvals and extension of all sugar import permits until further notice,” said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya while announcing the ban.

The measure came after leaders from the sugar belt led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya lamented over illegal importation of sugar in the country adding that it was undermining the local industry.

The President had on July 1, met Western leaders and discussed ongoing government efforts to revive the ailing sugar sector including the Mumias and Nzoia sugar factories.

The Head of State assured the leaders of the government's commitment to reviving the sector by fast-tracking the implementation of the sugar taskforce report.

Sector revival

The sugar sector revival report generated by a Presidential task force co-chaired by CS Munya and Governor Oparanya outlined several interventions among them writing off of debts owed by the millers.

As part of the revival process, the government through the Ministry of Agriculture has already published the sugar sector regulations and is in the process of strengthening the legal framework to anchor sector reforms.

Munya said the ministry had noted increased illegal importation, especially through the Busia border as unscrupulous traders take advantage of the Covid-19 curfew hours.

“We have also suspended pre-shipment approvals and extension of all sugar import permits until further notice,” said Munya.

“The uncoordinated importation of brown sugar has rendered Kenya’s mills uncompetitive. Ex-factory prices for the mills remain at Sh85,260 for a tonne while the CIF price is at Sh60,117 for the same quantity,” he said

Munya said the ban was long overdue, adding that the country faces an imminent sugar glut, which could potentially kill the industry.

Kenya is normally allowed to import 350,000 tonnes from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to fill the local deficit.

The move to stop shipments is likely to result in high cost of the commodity in the market as the cheap imports normally check on the high cost of the sweetener locally.

Leasing of State-owned sugar mills

Other reforms announced include leasing of State-owned sugar mills to private investors for a period of 20 years to process and develop cane on farms owned by these millers that include Muhoroni, Chemelil, Sony, Nzoia and Miwani.

Sugar imports in the first five months of the year rose 21 per cent compared with a similar period last year even as local production improved slightly in the last two months.

According to Sugar Directorate, imports of the commodity between January and May stood at 207,814 tonnes against 172,213 tonnes in the same period last year.

Enhanced imports came amid a 15 per cent increase in local production, with growth in yields attributed to a slight improvement in sugar cane supply to private millers.

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