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Economy

Court suspends importation of duty-free sugar

Imported sugar at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Imported sugar at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The high court on Thursday temporarily stopped the importation of duty-free sugar into the country.

The court temporarily suspended a gazette notice that extended the importation of the commodity to December.

Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita issued the directive after activist Okiya Omtata sued Treasury secretary Henry Rotich for extending the importation of duty free sugar from September to December.

“A conservatory order be and is hereby issued suspending the sued parties’ gazette notice No.9801 dated September 29 , allowing importation of duty free sugar,” said Justice Mwita.

Mr Omtatah claimed that the gazette notice published on October 4 is arbitrary as it was imposed without public participation involving all stakeholders including the affected local sugar industry.

He argued that should the importation of duty free sugar proceed, it would complicate matters for many cane farmers and workers in factories across the country.

He argued that there was no sugar shortage to warrant such a decision. He also said local sugar millers were licensed to produce the commodity from locally grown cane and have no business importing it unless they have abandoned their mission.

The notice raised suspicion after traders and millers imported 300,000 tonnes of the sweetener in August alone ahead of the August 31 deadline for importation duty free sugar.

The August imports are an equivalent of the country’s six-month sugar demand. The country consumes about 50,000 tonnes of sugar monthly. Mr Omtatah said the notice did not set a limit to the quantities of sugar to be imported duty free.

He further alleged that the Public Finance Management Act only allows the Cs to waive a national tax, a fee or charge imposed by the National Government and its entities where such a waiver or variation has been authorised by an Act of Parliament yet there was no such authorization.

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