Relief for Kenya as Comesa team endorses sugar import safeguard

Workers offload bags of sugar from a ship at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Workers offload bags of sugar from a ship at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A key Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) committee has recommended that Kenya be granted a two-year extension to limit on sugar imports from the trade bloc's member States, offering relief to local millers that feared competition from cheap producers.

The Comesa Council of Ministers agreed to Kenya’s application for more time before fully opening up its market to imports after more than a decade of being allowed to protect local sugar farmers.

However, unlike previous extensions, Comesa has formed a joint committee that will see the implementation of safeguards and report back to the business bloc on the progress.

“We have managed to successfully negotiate for a safeguard and we have been given two years extension to implement the required conditions,” said Trade Principal Secretary Chris Kiptoo.

Dr Kiptoo said the joint committee will at the end of two years make recommendations to Comesa on whether Kenya needs a further extension or not.

In an interview with the Business Daily Monday, the PS said it is improbable that the country will have met all requirements by then.

“It is very unlikely that the sector would have implemented the conditions set by Comesa at the end of the two years because of the structural problems facing the sugar millers,” he said.

Despite ten years of Kenya’s protectionism of the local sugar industry, the country still failed to address underlying issues that make the sector competitive.

In 2015, Kenya invoked the infantry clause of Comesa laws to seek protection against blanket export of sugar to Kenya from member States, arguing that it wanted to protect new factories that had just been set up.