Counties

Growers reject State plan to allow cheap sugar imports

Sugar millers want to be allowed to ship in produce to sustain operations amid cane shortage. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Sugar millers want to be allowed to ship in produce to sustain operations amid cane shortage. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

A sugarcane farmers' lobby has opposed plans by the government to allow Kenyan millers to import and re-brand sugar.

Farmers drawn from Kakamega, Busia and Bungoma counties noted that the move will deal a major blow to the already ailing sector.

The Kenya National Federation of Sugarcane Farmers says millers could end up importing sugar and forget their core business of crushing cane.

“Millers will concentrate on importing rather than manufacturing sugar. What will happen to cane farmers who depend on the crop to take care of their families?” posed the lobby's deputy secretary general Simon Wesechere on Tuesday.

Mr Wesechere said cheap imports were partly to blame for the sorry state of the country’s sugar industry.

Cheap imports

Last month, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said millers - particularly those experiencing cane shortages - could be given the greenlight to import and sell re-branded sugar locally to remain in operation.

According to the CS, the imports are expected to help tackle a deficit in production by 400,000 tonnes.

Some sugar millers, including Mumias Sugar Company #ticker:MSC and Nzoia Sugar, have had to temporarily halt operations due to an acute shortage of cane.

Mumias Sugar said it wants to be allowed to ship in at least 300,000 tonnes of sugar to help generate income and sustain operations.

Farmers are opposed to the move and say they are now questioning the government’s commitment to reviving the ailing sugar sector.

“We cannot afford to make matters worse by giving millers authority to source cheap imports,” Mr Wesechere said.