Sugar woes to persist as cane shortage hits millers


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

Sugar millers may be forced to close for the next three months as the shortage of cane persists.

To deal with the shortage, the sector regulators are pushing for the suspension of operations to give room for cane in the Western Kenya sugar belt to mature.

Read: Millers pay dearly for cane as severe shortage bites

The scramble for the primary raw material has pushed millers to resort to crushing immature cane, which results in poor-quality of the sweetener.

The Sugar Directorate in Kisumu is proposing to shut down millers from the end of this month until November to give room for the crops to mature.

“Other than lowering the quality of sugar on our shelves, harvesting the crops before maturity deprives farmers of maximising their profits due to the lightweight,” said Sugar Campaign for Change (Sucam) coordinator Michael Arum.

Kenya is currently facing shortages of the commodity which has seen the prices increase by more than 50 percent in the last two months.

The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) in May announced the delineation of the sugar belt into six regions in an attempt to limit conflict and the fight for raw materials.

"Such arrangements will ensure that millers continue to operate within capacities supported by mature sugarcane in their respective regions," said Sugar Directorate acting director Jude Chesire.

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

Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation and Allied Workers (Kuspaw) General Secretary Francis Wangara has, however, called on the government to consider licensing sugar millers to import part of the 185,000 tonnes in the country.

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