Sugar supply to drop on depressed cane milling

Butali Sugar Mills

Workers packaging sugar at Butali Sugar Mills in Kakamega. Sugar supplies are projected to tighten in the short term amid a drop in output by local millers.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Sugar supplies are projected to tighten in the short term amid a drop in output by local millers, a void likely to be filled through imports.

Data by the Sugar directorate showed that the total sugarcane milled by all factories in the country dropped to 716,274 tonnes in February, down from 908,537 tonnes the previous months—reflecting a shortage of the raw material amid a biting drought.

The drop in milled sugarcane affected sugar output with millers recording an output of 67,451 tonnes in February, a decrease from 81,488 tonnes in January even as demand for the commodity climbed.

“Total sugar sales in February 2023 totalled 81,079 tonnes up from 65,921 tonnes sold in January 2023,” the directorate said in a market report.

There was however some relief for consumers in February as the weighted ex-factory price of the commodity dipped 11 per cent to 5,432 per 50 kg bag compared to the previous month—helped by increased imports of the commodity.

“The retail price of sugar for 1kg in February was Sh147 a drop from Sh155 recorded in the previous month,” the directorate said.

Total sugar imports in February were recorded at 28,609 tonnes, both white refined and mill white or brown, compared to 22,722 tonnes in January.

Sugarcane farmers in Kisumu last week asked Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi to close all factories in Nyando Sugar Belt due to the ongoing scarcity of cane for crushing to avoid harvesting an immature crop.

"Currently factories are harvesting cane as young as 9 months causing losses for farmers and because of this reason, we propose that all factories close for four months," Kenya Sugar Growers Association secretary general Richard Ogendo said.

Rains have since returned in most parts of Kenya, raising hope of improved output of sugarcane in the medium term.