Cane farmers say cheap sugar imports crippling sector

A tractor transporting sugarcane

A tractor transporting sugarcane to a factory in Kisumu. Sugarcane farmers have appealed to the National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture to set up an inquiry into the importation of cheap sugar into the county.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Sugarcane farmers are now appealing to the National Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture to set up an inquiry into the importation of cheap sugar into the county amid allegations of dumping.

While Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya defended the government against allegations of indiscriminate dumping of cheap sugar into the country, cane growers have raised concerns, saying the cheap imports are crippling the sector.

The CS, who issued a statement on the status of sugar importation in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to the National Assembly Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, stated that the country is facing a deficit of 210,163 tonnes this year.

“The decision for reversal of ban on importation was informed by the fact that the country does not produce enough sugar to satisfy domestic consumption, thus the deficit can only be bridged through imports,” he said.

Temporary measure

Mr Munya pointed out that the ban on importation of brown sugar in July 2020 was a temporary measure announced by the ministry to streamline the sugar importation process.

“The suspension on importation of the sweetener was done with a view of implementing the Crops (Sugar) (Imports, Exports, and By-Products) Regulations, 2020 that were gazetted on 10 July 2020,” he said.

But Kenya Sugarcane Growers Association (Kesga) Secretary-General Richard Ogendo blamed price instability to the import of 20,000 metric tonnes of sugar from Uganda and an additional 57,473 metric tonnes that was to cover Comesa safeguard for 2020 in December 2020.

Factory prices falling

“The net effect of this has seen stocks building at the warehouses of the millers and forcing the factory prices to decline at an alarming rate,” said Mr Ogendo.

CS Munya in his response to questions raised by Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo indicated that the projected total sugar consumption in 2021 is 1,067,099 tonnes, against a production capacity of 660,000 tonnes of both white and brown sugar.

Sugar Campaign for Change (Sucam) coordinator Michael Arum has, however, called on the government to protect farmers from exploitation by unscrupulous government officials who are advancing unrestricted importation of the sweetener.

“This is happening at a time when farmers are left stranded with acres of sugarcane in their farms,” he said.

Muhoroni and Miwani receiver manager Francis Ooko recently cautioned that local millers are facing the wrath of dumping of sugar into the Kenyan market.

Mr Ooko, who is also the vice chairman of Kenya Sugarcane Manufacturers Association (Kesma), said most distributors of the troubled millers’ products have cut down on the quantities of bags they purchase.