Sugar imports increased by 196 per cent in 2017 compared with the previous year as traders rushed to ship in duty-free commodity to bridge a local deficit.
A market report from the Sugar Directorate indicates the volumes shipped into the country nearly tripled from 334,109 tonnes in 2016 to 989,619 tonnes.
The bulk of the sugar imports was brown/mill white type (table sugar 829,871 tonnes), representing 84 per cent of the total consignment, while the balance was industrial sugar used for manufacturing.
“The significant increase in table sugar imports is ascribed to huge importation of duty-free sugar between May and August 2017 to mitigate prevailing local shortage in the country,” says the report.
High imports were registered from non-Comesa countries during the period as more than three quarters of the consignment was imported from Brazil.
About 263,990 tonnes of the commodity were imported from Comesa Free Trade Area while 627,756 tonnes was shipped in from non-Comesa region.
The country imported 26,700 tonnes of sugar from East African countries last year, which is a decline from 39,109 tonnes in the same period in 2016.
Sugar production in the country dropped 41 per cent during the same period as factories grappled with shortage of raw material.
The quantities produced dropped from 377,818 in 2017 from 639,742 tonnes in in 2016, highlighting the effects of drought.
Decline in production saw consumers pay exorbitant prices between January and May last year, with a kilo of the commodity hitting a record Sh200.
The prices have, however, cooled after the factory price dropped as high volumes of imports increased supply in the market, cutting the price to Sh115 for a kilo.
The Treasury scrapped duty on imported sugar from outside Comesa in May following a severe shortage of the commodity in Kenya last year.
Kenya produces about 600,000 tonnes of sugar a year, compared with annual consumption of 870,000 tonnes.