Firms raise the alarm over illegal repackaging of sugar

Sugar imports at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Manufacturers want stiffer enforcement of sugar packaging regulations to curb abuse by some retailers suspected of repackaging and rebranding contrabands in their names.

Through their lobby, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the industrialists said a sizable amount of uncustomed sugar is smuggled into the country through porous borders, and some end up at the shelves without undergoing quality checks, posing a health risk to consumers.

The body wants the government to enhance inter-agency surveillance to curb sugar smuggling within its borders and urged the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to enforce regulations and undertake its role in enforcing regulations on the repackaging of both locally produced and imported sugar.

Joyce Opondo, chairperson of the sugar subsector at KAM said these illegal sugars cause distortions in the market, compromise sugar quality, and leads to loss of government revenue.

“There are regulatory provisions on standards of sugar packaging. However, enforcement remains a major challenge, leading to the retailing of sugar whose quality and origin are unknown. This encourages smuggling and is very dangerous for the health of the consumers,” said Ms Opondo.

Acute shortage

In 2014, Kebs warned retailers against packaging sugar as their brand without labelling the name of the miller and the origin; whether it is from a local manufacturer or imported.

The manufacturers also took issue with imports of the commodity to Kenya saying it is affecting the price of the local sugar.

Kenya is currently a net importer of sugar mainly from Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries.

The country imports from Comesa on a duty-free basis to bridge the deficit in times of acute shortage.

“This occasionally leads to oversupply and glut in the market, dampening local sugar prices hence adversely impacting not only on price and demand but also on the industry at large,” she said.

KAM also wants the government to address the issue of poor roads in the sugarcane growing zones.

According to the association, many sugarcane access roads are impassable especially during rainy seasons and this results in a high turn-around time on delivery, high in-transit losses leading to low efficiency and competitiveness of the industry.

KAM wants the National and County Governments to take up their respective responsibilities in infrastructure development and maintenance as provided for in the constitution.

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