Commodities

Cane supply to factories rises steadily as ban ends

sugarcane

A tractor ferrying sugarcane from sugarcane plantations. FILE PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NMG

The volume of sugarcane delivered to factories for milling more than doubled in December compared to the previous month, coinciding with the end of a four-month ban on the production of the sweetener, to avoid the harvest of immature raw material.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that growers delivered 610,020 tonnes of cane to sugar factories in December, a 105.9 percent increase from 296,170 tonnes in November and the highest quantity shipped for processing since February 2023.

The increase followed the lifting of the ban on sugar milling by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) which started in July. During the ban, only factories that proved to AFA that they had collected enough cane to crush were allowed to process it.

The ban was imposed after factories – both public and private – ran out of mature cane to crush. Some of the millers had resorted to crushing immature cane, even as poaching wars, where some factories entice farmers to contract with other factories with sweeter offers for their cane escalated.

Read: Farmers sue State, millers in sugarcane zoning row

The ban lasted between July and November with factories resuming crushing on December 1. When the ban was imposed, cane deliveries dropped from 436,690 tonnes in June to 182,970 tonnes in September.

This therefore worsened the already prevailing deficit of sugar which, coupled with high global prices of the sweetener, saw sugar prices skyrocket.

Read: Global sugar prices hit 11 year high on low output

The sugar deficit forced the government to extend its duty-free importation of the commodity to help stabilise prices and meet demand.

The higher imports saw sugar prices ease to Sh213 per kilogramme on average during the month compared to Sh218 in October.

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