Influx of imports helps slash sugar prices to below Sh200

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Trucks within the port of Mombasa waiting to be loaded with imported bagged sugar. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Sugar prices eased by about Sh5 per kilogramme to hit the lowest level in five months last November.

The drop was driven by an influx of imports that helped offset a slowdown in local production.

Data from the Sugar Directorate shows prices eased to Sh213 per kilogramme on average during the month compared to Sh218 in October.

The price of the sweetener has been on a steady decline from a peak of Sh224 per kilogramme in August, with the price currently below Sh200 in several supermarkets for some brands.

“Retail sugar prices in November averaged Sh213 per kilo, a drop from Sh218 in October,” said the directorate.

“The wholesale prices in November dropped to an average of Sh8,867 per 50kg bag, down three percent from Sh9,145/50kg bag in October,” said the directorate.

The price drop followed a significant jump in sugar imports, which increased by 51.3 percent to 90,759 tonnes in November, the highest since last March.

As a result, the total quantity of sugar supply in the market including that produced locally hit 113,495 tonnes, also the highest since March and an increase of 37 percent from October.

The drop in prices comes as a slight relief for consumers who have been paying steep prices for the commodity.

Sugar prices have risen by the fastest rate of any food product tracked for inflation by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics over the past year.

The rally in prices was driven by the temporary closure of sugar millers for four months starting in July to allow the cane to mature.

The Agriculture and Food Authority made the decision after sugar factories were hit by a cane shortage, forcing some to resort to crushing immature cane while fuelling cane poaching.

As a result, domestic production of the commodity plummeted to just 22,736 tonnes in November from a high of 81,648 tonnes in January.

Sugar is one of the most consumed food products in the country both at household and industrial levels. It was one of the main drivers of food inflation during the period.

The product is used to sweeten drinks such as tea and coffee, manufacture of soft drinks such as juices and soda, baking of popular foods such as bread, biscuits, as well as in manufacture of pharmaceuticals such as syrups and in beauty products.

Kenya has been a net importer of sugar since the mid-1980s but the gap between production and demand has been widening over time, which has been made worse by the ineptitude of the public millers.

Kenya’s annual consumption of the sweetener stood at 1.11 million metric tonnes in 2022 against a production of 790,000 metric tonnes which led to the importation of 320,000 metric tonnes worth Sh28 billion to plug the deficit.

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