Duty-free sugar imports window extended

sugar imports

Workers offload bags of sugar from a ship at the Port of Mombasa.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The National Treasury has extended the duty-free importation of white and brown sugar from outside the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) by two months.

The window, which was to close on April 6, 2024, has been extended to June 30, 2024 which allows traders to import 250,000 tonnes of duty-free sugar to supplement local production in a bid to lower prices.

“It is notified for the general information of the public that…the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Economic Planning has extended the period for the importation of 250,000 metric tonnes of white or brown sugar specified in Gazette Notice No. 14093 of 2023 dated October 13, 2023, from the April 6, 2024, to June 30,” said Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u in a Gazette Notice.

The extension follows a request from Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi. CS Linturi had requested the Treasury to extend duty-free imports of the commodity to meet a local shortfall in production of the sweetener.

In his request to the exchequer, the CS said that going by the current local production trends of sugar, a projected domestic sugar deficit of 192,000 tonnes is anticipated for the first six months of 2024.

Kenya allowed traders to import 100,000 tonnes of duty-free sugar from January last year, and in May, traders were allowed to import a further 180,000 tonnes.

But as local production of the sweetener plummeted due to a temporary four-month ban on local milling, the government in August allowed importation of 290,000 tonnes of sugar under the duty-free regime before allowing a further 250,000 tonnes in October.

The sugar imports, coupled with a rebound in local production, have helped sugar prices drop sharply to Sh165 per kilogramme in March, down from a high of Sh229 per kilogramme in July last year.

During the same period, local sugar production has more than doubled to 69,520 tonnes, up from 33,246 tonnes.

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