Sugar tops list of goods most smuggled into Kenya


The busy Namanga border town between Kenya and Tanzania. Photo/ANTHONY KAMAU

Sugar accounts for nearly half of the goods smuggled across Kenya’s porous border points, a new report shows, turning the focus on illicit trading of the sweetener.

National Crime Research Centre data shows that 48 per cent of all incidents of smuggling involved sugar with about 789 cases reported over the last year.

Other popular products smuggled into the country include alcohol and illicit brews (28 per cent), illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin (25.2 per cent), cereals (23 per cent), clothes, shoes and handbags (12.8 per cent), charcoal/coal (12 per cent) and wheat and maize flour (11.3 per cent).

Sugar is mainly smuggled into the country through eight counties including Garissa, Kajiado Narok and Migori followed by Mandera, Kwale, Trans Nzoia and Busia.

“Kenya-Ethiopia and Kenya-Somalia borders are famous for sugar smuggled from Brazil. The bulk of the contraband sugar impounded in the country is smuggled through the Somalia border,” said the National Crime Research Centre in the study.

Kenya’s protectionist policies that seek to limit sugar imports have kept the prices of the commodity high, making it lucrative to import illegally.

Since 2002, Kenya has sought to protect the local sugar industry by imposing import quotas from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries.

Kenya sugar annual report shows that Kenya’s sugar production cost is estimated at more than $600 (Sh65,000) per tonne, twice that of other key sugar-producing Comesa countries, making the country an attractive export market.