Farmers plan demo over sugar imports

Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association

Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association secretary-general Richard Ogendo addresses journalists in Kisumu in February.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

Cane growers are planning demonstrations to protest what they termed as indiscriminate dumping of cheap sugar into the country.

They said the nationwide protests to be held on Tuesday next week at all the public and private sugar companies, seek to protect over eight million Kenyans whose livelihoods are at a risk.

“It is unfortunate that some government officials are conspiring and exploiting majority of Kenyans who rely on the sugar industry at the expense of a few selfish individuals,” said Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) secretary-general Richard Ogendo.

He pointed out that the entry of 20,000 metric tonnes of sugar from Uganda and an additional 57,473 metric tonnes that was to cover the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) safeguards for 2020 in the last two months has created price instability.

“The net effect of this has seen stocks building up at the warehouses of the millers and forcing the factory prices to decline at an alarming rate,” he said, expressing fears that farmers may not be paid.

Mr Ogendo blamed Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the Kenya Revenue Authority and the political leadership for allowing the importation of duty-free sugar, crippling struggling local millers.

Public mills

“It is suspicious that government agencies are flooding the Kenyan market at a time when farmers are stranded with sugarcane in their farms. The four public mills, which were closed, are also up and running,” he added.

Sugar Campaign for Change (Sucam) coordinator Michael Arum, however, alleged that the decline in the price of sugar could be a deliberate scheme by millers to lower the price of raw cane.

“Some cartels are advancing theories that Kenya is an expensive producer of sugar compared to other regions and want to further exploit farmers who are already burdened by other costs associated with cane development,” he said.

“No farmer will accept to be paid less than Sh4,200 per tonne,” he stated.

The sentiments by farmers come days after millers cautioned that the unrestricted importation of the sweetener could hamper operations of the local factories.

Joint receiver manager for Muhoroni and Miwani sugar companies Francis Ooko raised concerns that their distributors have reduced the quantities of bags they purchase.